A brief history of Irish celebration

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The Independent Online
IT GOES without saying that the Irish are world class when it comes to celebration, particularly at Cheltenham, one of their favourite battlegrounds whether the enemy is the home side or the communal foe, the bookmakers. Though any winner is greeted with the traditional roar, some have merited treatment above and beyond the normal call.

1925: Ballinode, "the Sligo mare", takes the second running of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the first of 19 Irish victories.

1946: Distel is the first Irish-trained winner of the Champion Hurdle. For good measure they take the Gold Cup too, with Prince Regent.

1950: Cottage Rake, trained by Vincent O'Brien (who took 25 races at the Festival before turning his attention to the Flat), becomes the first from Ireland to win three Gold Cups, to the accompaniment of his own battle- cry, "Aubrey's up, the money's down, the frightened bookies quake, so come on lads and give a cheer - Begod, 'tis Cottage Rake".

1958: A record eight Irish-trained horses triumph: Top Twenty, Springsilver, Admiral Stuart, Fortria, Sentina, Prudent King, Quita Que and Friendly Boy. A recent nadir was in 1989, when the raiders went home empty-handed.

1966: Arkle - "himself" - the greatest chaser produced in Ireland, or anywhere else for that matter, wins his third Gold Cup, on St Patrick's Day. The horse wore a bunch of shamrock in his bridle, which, it is said, kept him upright after he attempted to gallop straight through the eleventh fence. As Arkle and Pat Taaffe returned to a hero's welcome, more shamrock was sprinkled on racegoers from a light aircraft.

1982: Mister Donovan, backed from 6-1 to 9-2 on the day, wins the Sun Alliance Novices Hurdle to land the first big Cheltenham wager for the legendary Geneva-based pro backer and financial genius JP McManus. He took pounds 250,000 out of the ring and described it as "a nice little touch".

1986: Dawn Run becomes the first and only Champion Hurdler to go on to victory in the Gold Cup. Bedlam ensues in the winner's enclosure as the owner Charmian Hill and rider Jonjo O'Neill are hoisted shoulder high.

1996: Similar chaotic scenes after Imperial Call's Gold Cup victory, one of seven Irish wins. But with life and limb actually threatened that day as the mob packed tightly round the horse, future security measures may cramp Irish style. Then again, they may not.

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