Mc Alpine earns emotional victory for Rothwell

The 33/1 shot came home in the Valda Energy Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

Friday, November 12, 2021
Mc Alpine 12112021

Philip Rothwell celebrates his return to the Cheltenham winner's enclosure after a 15-year wait

Ireland’s tallest trainer Philip Rothwell stood tall and let the tears flow after a first Cheltenham winner in 15 years, writes Tom Harle.

The County Wicklow handler claimed the Cross Country Chase at the 2006 Festival with Native Jack and hadn’t won at Prestbury Park since despite numerous attempts.

It was finally the gentle giant’s day in Gloucestershire as 33/1 Mc Alpine prevailed in the Valda Energy Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

“I won the cross-country in 2006 and didn’t think it would take 15 years to get back here,” a tearful Rothwell said in an emotional interview with Racing TV.

“I love it. It’s my favourite place in the whole wide world, I love standing out there and get a great thrill out of it. 

“I’ve been second here a few times, had the Festival winner here and would love another one, obviously.

“The owners of this horse are the most supportive people in the yard - we’re a small yard, but they’re great, and to have a winner for them today is very special.”

The horse took 17 attempts to win over hurdles and did it for the first time at Listowel in September. 

The seven-year-old was second last time out at Wexford over the 2m1/2f trip and jockey James O’Sullivan gave him a sensible ride here towards the rear of an 18-strong field before starting to pick up three from home.

The gelding stepped up the pace approaching the last and took victory by two and a quarter lengths.

Rothwell has enjoyed a productive last few seasons and landed three winners at last week’s Punchestown Festival.

He has been training since the age of 21 and was in the top six trainers in the country in the early part of his career.


The economic crisis hit the yard hard, with Rothwell saying: ”the last number of years has been a slow rebuild."

As of May, however, he had more than 300 winners to his name and Mc Alpine capped a brilliant first day of the November meeting for Irish horses, with Gin On Lime for Henry De Bromhead and Blazing Khal for Charles Byrnes coming out on top.


I won the cross-country in 2006 and didn’t think it would take 15 years to get back here

- Philip Rothwell 

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