PILGRIMS: THE IRISH AT CHELTENHAM
In this special feature, one of the great Irish pilgrimages, the Cheltenham Festival, is celebrated. The program tells the story of Ireland's greatest Cheltenham successes from ARKLE to DAWN RUN to ISTABRAQ and examines why this festival is so deeply engrained in the Irish consciousness.
The Irish and Cheltenham, a love affair that goes back over 45 years. Every year thousands of Irish horse racing fans, make the pilgrimage over the Irish sea, each March for the greatest four days of National Hunt racing.
The Cheltenham Festival is the Holy Grail in an Irish punters racing calendar, a tradition that has carried on since the mid 60's when a horse by the name of ARKLE became a Cheltenham legend when he won three Cheltenham Gold Cups in succession.
ARKLE's first victory in that race in 1964 was billed as England vs Ireland, both countries going head-to-head, with heavy favorite MILL HOUSE expected to win back-to-back Gold Cups. He had previously beaten ARKLE in the Hennessey Gold Cup just four months previously, as not many English Punters gave the Irish chaser a chance to avenge the defeat and beat the magnificent MILL HOUSE, ironically, an Irish-bred but English-trained racehorse.
However, after a punishing race, the two great champions ran clear of the field, with a duel to the finish. MILL HOUSE who had led for most of the race saw his lead diminish as he was overtaken by ARKLE and could do nothing as the Irish horse jumped clear of the last, and went on to win by five lengths - making him an instant national hero and racing icon.
ARKLE went on to win two more Gold Cups back to back in 1965 and 1966, rightly earning his legendary status in Ireland.
Since that epic race in 1964, the Irish community have continued to go back to Cheltenham each year, creating an atmosphere unlike any other racecourse in the world. With the four-day festival falling on St. Paddy's week there is plenty of "craic" to be had.
Ireland is one of the great equine countries steeped in great horse racing traditions; the horses they continue to breed and the trainers and jockeys they have produced are at the pinnacle of horse racing.
Besides, the legendary ARKLE, the Irish had great success with the mighty mare, DAWN RUN. Trained by Paddy Mullins, produced the incredible feat of winning the Champion Hurdle in 1984, and then the Gold Cup in 1986. She is still the only horse to this day to achieve this double triumph.
In more recent times, the great ISTABRAQ won three consecutive Champion Hurdles in 1998, 1999, and 2000, remaining the only horse to win at four successive festivals.
Cheltenham and its colorful history is a place you cannot describe, and you can only really do it justice by visiting this Holy Grail of national hunt racing. Only then, you will see why the Irish love affair with the legendary course continues to grow.
|Format(s) Available:||DVD And VHS|
|Category:||National Hunt / Jumps / Steeplechase|