CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL WINNERS TO THE FORE IN ANGLO-IRISH JUMP AWARDS
The Cheltenham Festival's position as the pre-eminent arena for excellence in jump racing has been reinforced with the unveiling today, Monday, May 15, of the new and prestigious 2006 Anglo-Irish Jump Racing Awards, with Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdler Brave Inca named the Anglo-Irish Horse of the Year.
The awards coincide with the release of the Anglo-Irish National Hunt Classifications which are in their seventh year.
The Anglo-Irish Jump Racing Awards have been determined by a panel of six senior British and Irish handicappers, who classified the best hurdlers and chasers to have competed in the two countries during the 20005/2006 season which concluded at the end of April.
Each of the seven individual winners of the eight categories competed at this year's Cheltenham Festival and four were victorious in championship contests, including Brave Inca who is honoured as Champion Two-Mile Hurdler as well as Horse of the Year after receiving a rating of 167.
Colm Murphy's charge scored a memorable triumph in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at The Festival in March. The 7/4 favourite showed his customary class and toughness to defeat Mac's Joy by a length, with dual Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace in third.
That Festival victory was the pinnacle of a fine season which incorporated Grade One wins at Leopardstown in the December Festival Hurdle and AIG Europe Champion Hurdle.
Brave Inca was recording his second Festival success after landing the 2004 Grade One Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices' Hurdle, when he defeated none other than War Of Attrition, another award winner, by a neck in a thrilling finish.
War Of Attrition, allocated a rating of 173, receives the accolade of Champion Three-Mile Chaser in the 2006 Anglo-Irish Jump Awards after capturing the most prestigious jump prize of all, the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The Mouse Morris-trained champion defeated Hedgehunter by two and a half lengths that day and cemented the Cheltenham Festival form with victory in the Grade One Guinness Gold Cup at Punchestown in April.
At the outset of the 2005/2006 season, Newmill was unconsidered for two-mile championship honours, but a decisive success in the Grade One Queen Mother Champion Chase at The Festival stamped the John Murphy-trained eight-year-old as the best in his division.
Newmill's third to Brave Inca in a Leopardstown Grade One hurdle in December marked him as a class performer over the smaller obstacles, but his nine-length defeat of Fota Island in the Queen Mother Champion Chase was a career best effort over fences.
The eight-year-old confirmed his Festival superiority over Fota Island in the Kerrygold Champion Chase at Punchestown and has deservedly been crowned Champion Two-Mile Chaser in the Anglo-Irish Jump Racing Awards after being rated 173.
Black Jack Ketchum (161) is one of the most exciting young horses in training, and the Jonjo O'Neill-trained star captured the public imagination with an imperious nine-length defeat of Powerstation in the Grade Two Brit Insurance Novices' Hurdle at The Festival.
Black Jack Ketchum, unbeaten in seven starts, scored three of his five successes this term at Prestbury Park before going on to Grade One success at Aintree in April, and has duly been crowned the Anglo-Irish Jump Racing Awards Champion Novice Hurdler.
Mighty Man takes the Anglo-Irish Jump Racing Award of Champion Two and a Half Mile-plus Hurdler. He achieved a rating of 165.
The Henry Daly-trained six-year-old raced four times at Cheltenham during the season and posted a fine effort when winning the Relkeel Hurdle there in December.
Mighty Man finished the four-length third to My Way De Solzen in the Grade One Ladbrokes World Hurdle at The Festival, but avenged that defeat when proving seven lengths superior to the same rival at Aintree in April.
Foreman (163) took the title of Champion Novice Chaser in the Anglo-Irish Jumps Awards.
Trained in France by Thierry Doumen, Foreman ran a fine race when third to Voy Por Ustedes in the two-mile Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival but subsequently reversed that form when emerging the length victor over that rival in a Grade One contest at Aintree.
The Anglo-Irish Jump Racing Award for Champion Two and a Half Mile Chaser went to Hi Cloy (164), who finished sixth behind Fondmort in the Grade Two Ryanair Chase at The Festival.
Hi Cloy won Grade One contests at Punchestown and Leopardstown in December before heading to Cheltenham, and advertised the merit of The Festival form when winning the two and a half mile Grade One John Smith's Melling Chase at Aintree in April.
Peter McNeile, Director of Sponsorship at Cheltenham Racecourse, commented: "The Anglo-Irish Jump Racing Awards is a great initiative that rewards excellence and gives the stars of the jump season the recognition they so fully deserve.
"The Cheltenham Festival has an unparalleled tradition of hosting championship races, and the fact that each of the award winners contested events at this year's Festival speaks volumes for the continued quality of the occasion.
"Brave Inca is a deserved winner of the Horse of the Year Award and we look forward to seeing him and the other Anglo-Irish Jump Award winners at The Festival in 2007."