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Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Fulke Walwyn

 

Fulke Walwyn, who died in February, 1991, at the age of 80, is rightly remembered as one of the most successful National Hunt trainers of all time. As far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, Walwyn saddled 40 winners between 1946 and 1986, thereby setting a record that stood until finally surpassed by Nicky Henderson. Even today, Walwyn still ranks fourth in the all-time list of the most successful trainers at the Festival, behind Willie Mullins, Henderson and Paul Nicholls, all of whom are, of course, still training. Following his death, his name was added to the title of the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup, a handicap chase for amateur riders currently run on the third day of the Festival.


Of the four main 'championship' races at the Festival, the only one which Walwyn did not win was the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He won the Champion Hurdle twice, with Anzio in 1962 and Kirriemuirin 1965, the Stayers' Hurdle three times, with Crimson Embers, twice, in 1982 and 1986 and Rose Ravine in 1985 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup four times, with Mont Tremblant in 1952, Mandarin in 1962, Mill House in 1963 and The Dikler in 1973. Mill House, still only a six-year-old when he won the Gold Cup, was hailed as the best steeplechaser since Golden Miller, but the rest of his career was overshadowed by Arkle, who beat him in the Gold Cup in 1964 and 1965.

Monday, 21 February 2022

Easysland

 

At the time of writing, Easysland recently suffered his first defeat in eight cross-country steeplechases, when only fourth of seven finishers, at odds-on, in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in November 2020. However, in his defence, the six-year-old gelding had not been seen in public since winning the conditions version of the same race, the Glenfarclas Chase, at the Cheltenham Festival in March 2020, so almost certainly needed the run on his reappearance.


Indeed, following the impressive, 17-length victory over dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll at the Cheltenham Festival, Easysland was mooted as a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup contender. However, prior to his most recent defeat, Frank Berry, racing manager for owner J.P. McManus, had already stated that, while the Cheltenham Festival was the main objective for Easysland, he would be aimed, once again, at the Glenfarclas Chase, rather than the Gold Cup. Granted that Easysland fell three times over regulation obstacles earlier in his career and is still inclined to make the odd mistake, that may prove to be a shrewd decision for the time being.


Currently clear favourite for the Glenfarclas Chase at 9/4, Easysland could make those odds look very generous indeed by the time March 2021 rolls around, especially with his old rival Tiger Roll never travelling or jumping with any fluency when pulled up on his reappearance. With the possible exception of one-time Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy, now in the care of Gordon Elliott, it is difficult to see which horse, if any, could possibly dethrone him.