Jamie and J.J. deliver

Wexford jockeys steer home three Cheltenham winners

Dave Devereux

Jamie Codd celebrates with the tricolour after winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper on Fayonagh at Cheltenham
Jamie Codd celebrates with the tricolour after winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper on Fayonagh at Cheltenham
Champagne Classic and J.J. Slevin on their way to winning the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle on St. Patrick's Day

Wexford jockeys Jamie Codd and J.J. Slevin were the toast of Cheltenham last week as they steered home three winners between them at the famous festival.

Codd enjoyed a wonderful Wednesday in the Cotswolds that yielded two winners, Cause of Causes (4/1) in the Cross Country Chase, and Fayonagh (7/1) in the Champion Bumper, both saddled by top trainer Gordon Elliott.

Cause of Causes holds a special place in the heart of the Mayglass man, with the amateur partnering him to victory in three consecutive festivals, becoming only the fourth horse to win three different races at the meeting after a battling success ahead of stablemate Bless The Wings in the Cross Country Chase.

'He's run at four Festivals now, been second once and won three times. He's a great little horse, a real dinger, he's been marvellous for my career. He ran in January here and took a while to warm to it,' Codd said after the race.

'He came back in February when the sales were on and he schooled really well. He also schooled well this morning and I thought he'd run a big race. He's an idle little horse but quick when you need him to be. I sit in J.T's (McNamara) place in the weighing room and he was king of the banks so to finally win one at last, I'm over the moon.'

Codd produced a masterclass in the saddle to get Fayonagh home in front in the Champion Bumper after blowing the start. After the tardy beginning, the mare was in last position for much of the race, before she showed a remarkable turn of foot to allow Codd to scythe through the field like a knife through butter and collar runner-up Debuchet on the run-in.

'We had a false start. I had a great position for that, and I was actually lined up nicely for the second start but she got a fright and just halted for about two and a half seconds. I thought I had lost all chance, to be honest, and so I just followed them,' he said.

'All the way down the hill I followed, followed, followed, and just once I switched her out turning in, I thought I'd run on to be second or third or fourth maybe. To be fair to her, she's quickened and quickened. It's pure ability that has got me there in the end. She's a great mare,' he said.

Fayonagh was formerly owned by local auctioneer Claude Howlin and his wife Niamh, and Joe and Suzanne Doyle from Rathnure, and trained by Richie Rath from Screen.

The horse was then sold to Mark and Maura Gittins at the sales in December for £64,000 stg. on the recommendation of Codd, who works with Tattersalls Ireland, and was sent to trainer Gordon Elliott.

'It's a great story for the Tattersalls sale - to buy a horse and come back to win at The Festival a few months later; it's remarkable,' Codd said.

Codd was fulsome in his praise for trainer Elliott, who just edged out Willie Mullins after the four days to land the accolade of leading trainer.

'I'll say it again, Gordon is a remarkable trainer - that is his fifth winner of The Festival and it is only two days old. It's incredible. Whatever happens from now on, it is made.

'For me to get two and Gordon on five - it's fantastic. I am in a good position - I'm riding for the top trainers and at the top Festivals. I am blessed,' he said.

Meanwhile, Cheltenham 2017 will forever be remembered with fondness by Caim jockey J.J. Slevin too as he rode his first Festival winner in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle aboard Champagne Classic, clinching the trainer's title for Gordon Elliott in the process.

Having only recently returned from an injury lay-off after suffering fractured ribs and a bruised kidney in a fall at Gowran, Slevin, who had earlier finished sixth aboard his cousin Joseph O'Brien's Ivanovich Gorbatov in the County Hurdle, gave Gordon Elliott's charge a superb ride.

Slevin positioned his mount in mid-division before gradually creeping into contention after the third last, and the Gigginstown-owned 12/1 shot stormed up the hill to see off Verni by two and a half lengths.

The jockey admitted afterwards fate was on his side.

'I was lucky the ride came up and I put a call in and got it, but then I got offered another ride and Gordon wouldn't let me off him. He's travelled everywhere, jumped every hurdle and was a winner all the way really,' he said.

Slevin's triumph was also a champagne moment for trainer Gordon Elliott as it clinched the trainer's title for the Meath man after a ding-dong battle with Willie Mullins.

'Gordon's had an unbelievable week and it's a privilege to ride for him,' said Slevin.

Nine Wexford jockeys took part in the Festival - Daryl Jacob and Tom O'Brien, who are based in England, as well as Seán Flanagan, Jamie Codd, J.J. Slevin, Mikey Fogarty, Jonathan Moore, Barry O'Neill and Harley Dunne.

Davidstown native Daryl Jacob hit the crossbar, coming close to getting his third festival win on the board, finishing in the frame on five occasions, ending the week with three seconds and two thirds to his name.

He was second on the Nicky Henderson-trained Top Notch in the Grade 1 JLT Novices Chase on Thursday, a length adrift of hot favourite Yorkhill, with the 6/4 shot getting the potent Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh partnership off the mark for the week.

On the final day of the Festival, Jacob again finished in the runners-up berth as 25/1 chance L'ami Serge was just a neck adrift of Arctic Fire in the County Hurdle, with Tom O'Brien on board Ozzie The Oscar a neck further back in third.

Jacob finished third on board the Alan King-trained 8/1 chance Messire Des Obeaux in the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle on Wednesday.

On Friday, the Jacob-ridden 13/2 shot Wholestone, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, was third in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle behind Penhill.

In the final race of the Festival, Jacob notched another second place finish on board 20/1 chance Gardefort, losing out by a length and three quarters to the Jessica Harrington-trained and Robbie Power-ridden Rock The World, who were completing a memorable double after winning the Gold Cup with Sizing John.

Meath man Power is a son of Fethard-on-Sea native, Captain Con Power, who was part of the all-conquering Irish showjumping Nations Cup teams in the 1970s and 80s, and Margaret (nee Latta).

Last Goodbye, a 22/1 shot, saddled by Crossabeg trainer Liz Doyle finished in a creditable fifth place in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase on the opening day of the festival.

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