Flooring Porter (4-1) won the Grade One Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle (3m) for the second year in succession, scoring by two and three-quarter lengths from Thyme Hill with 2019 winner Paisley Park staying on to take third, another nose behind.
It is a fourth success at The Festival for trainer Gavin Cromwell.
Jockey Danny Mullins was winning his second race at The Festival, having also been aboard Flooring Porter in 2021.
Flooring Porter’s success today is the 14th for an Irish-trained horse in the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Winning trainer Gavin Cromwell said:
“What can you say. I know everything went perfectly to plan and he behaved himself at the start, he’s really grown up now. We set out to make the running and he was foot perfect everywhere and Danny was fantastic on him. We jumped the third last and he filled the horse up and he’s made it look easy really. I was worried as to whether he’d get done for a turn of foot but Danny kept his cool and he knew what he was doing – he knew what he had underneath him.
“I wasn’t too bad about the start to be honest (nerves wise) and I was pretty confident that it was going to be ok. The horse has just really matured and we got him there good and early and he’s really behaved himself since he came here.
“A very good horse beat us at Leopardstown (Klassical Dream) but he got off to a flyer that day and we didn’t and ultimately it made the difference. He was only beaten two and a half lengths and it was a good run but he has always been trained towards this race.
“Danny is so good with those front-runners, he seems to have a serious clock in his head and he’s a real horseman. It’s there for everyone to see and Flooring Porter hasn’t been straightforward, he’s just gone with him straight away and he’s just a proper horseman. He seemed to get a soft lead again and we’ll take it.
“He’s just an older and wiser horse this year and he’s so slick over his hurdler. Long or short he’s as quick over his flights and he was taking ground out of everything.
“A couple of the owners have a pub which is the ‘Porter’ part of the name and another guy has a flooring shop, so that’s where the name comes from. They’re country people and they’re making sure they’re enjoying it. I have a feeling there will be more than one night of celebrating!
“The crowd here is just magic. It was amazing here when Espoir D’Allen won the Champion Hurdle but we came here as an outsider and he wasn’t that expected. Coming here today we had one of the fancied ones and we fancied him. It all worked out so it’s fantastic.
“We’ll be back here in 12 months’ time (to defend his crown), absolutely.”
Successful jockey Danny Mullins said:
“It was pretty simple really. I was confident the horse would be fine at the start. He’s a professional, and it’s a credit to Gavin for his training through the year, training him throughout with Cheltenham in mind. This is the place everyone wants to win, and it’s magic to get the job done on the day. He came over a few days earlier to let him get the gas out of his system and he behaved impeccably and did what we believed he could do.
“I was always happy. What he did after the last (cocked his jaw) is just one of his quirks. Good horses have their quirks, We can deal with that. It’s my job to guide him.
“The reception we got was the stuff that dreams are made of and hopefully we’ll do it many more times.
“These championship races are what it’s all about. The most special thing about it today is the reaction from the owners. They weren’t here last year to enjoy it and it’s very special for them. It’s fantastic to hear the boys enjoy it like that, and it shows it can be done with a syndicate. You don’t have to be in the elite to win at Cheltenham, and that’s the magic of jump racing.
“I’m very fortunate as I ride a lot of good horses for great trainers with fantastic staff. They make my job easy.”
Ned Hogarty, of winning owner The Flooring Porter Syndicate, said:
“This is fantastic. It will never be forgotten. It shows you don’t have to be a sheikh to win a Grade 1! We came here hopeful. The rain yesterday probably didn’t play to our strengths, but it worked out. Danny gave him a right ride.
“We all needed this at home. It’s been strange times the last couple of years and this is a morale boost.
“If anyone had told me we wouldn’t have won again until now I wouldn’t have believed them. The horse was due it, we were due it, the parish was due it, and the country was due it. Hopefully we can all celebrate and drink a few pints on Paddy’s Day.
“The only negative we had last year was not being here. But apart from that what a time we had. This is after bringing a group of people together who are lifelong friends. It’s great for everyone. It’s memories we’ll have forever.”
Philip Hobbs, trainer of second Thyme Hill said:
“It’s always disappointing to be second, but he’s run a very good race and kept going very well. Bit better ground might have helped us, but he’s run well. He might want a bit longer [than going to Aintree again], so we might think about Punchestown.”
Tom O’Brien, rider of runner-up Thyme Hill said:
“He’s had his run of the race. The ground is drying out now and getting a bit gluey, and he did feel better on good to soft in the spring last year. But take nothing away from the winner - none of us got to him.”
Emma Lavelle, trainer of the third Paisley Park, said:
“He has run his heart out and he was definitely the fastest up the hill. He is looking at the winner thinking that is me what is he (Flooring Porter) doing here. The form has stood up all season as it has been the same horses to the fore on either side of the water.
“We’ve got closer to Flooring Porter this season which is great. He was as good as gold at the start. As Aidan (Coleman) said we are not done with yet. His form wasn’t far off where it has ever been. We were in a much better position than last season. He had the run in the Cleeve which he needed. It was brilliant. He went into with a great preparation.
“He is getting older ,but he has still got it and you can’t say he hasn’t. He is pretty much as good as he has ever been. Like Aidan said he probably needs the soft ground to slow them down but he would actually prefer the better ground. He has run such a super race and he has had another good season. There is no reason to think we won’t be back next year.
“We will keep our options open for the rest of the season. I’m not going to rule Ireland out but let’s see how he comes out of this. He is something else. This is his fifth Festival. He is some horse. The one thing you would say about Cheltenham it so plays to his strengths because all joking aside and Flooring Porter was brilliant and he was definitely the fastest up the hill. He is the one that is galloping away. He just wants that ultimate test of stamina. He needs to grow a longer nose though as that was how far back he was away from finishing second but he is something else.
Andrew Gemmell, owner of the third Paisley Park said:
“He won’t go to Aintree but who knows about Ireland. It is great to be back here. I was chuffed how he went through the race. It was the same old same old as he hit that flat spot but he came through it. He ran on so strongly through the end I thought he got second. A nose is a nose but he has still ran fantastically well.”
Aidan Coleman, rider of third-placed Paisley Park said:
“He is a phenomenal horse. It was a great run and there was not much more he could possibly do. He is getting that bit older but fair play to the winner in defending his crown but I’m very proud of my horse.”
Nicky Henderson, trainer of fourth-placed Champ said:
“He has run a smashing race. He has run a much sweeter race than he did in the Cleeve.
“We came to the conclusion that his first run of the year is always his best and I was trying to convince him this was his first run of the year. I’ve totally undercooked him but it didn’t make any difference but we have gone about it that way as it got him travelling like that and that’s what I wanted.
“He travelled like he did at Ascot not like he did in the Cleeve so it worked to a point. Jonjo said it was probably just slow enough for him. He could go for the three mile race at Aintree as the plan is still to take Buveur D’Air to the two and a half mile race there. It would probably better trying to go to Aintree than Punchestown but we will see.
“I would have thought we would stay over hurdles but there is plenty of time to think of that.”