Who was Flyingbolt?

Trained by the late Thomas William ‘Tom’ Dreaper at Greenogue, Kilsallaghan, County Dublin, Flyingbolt was a contemporary and stable companion of Arkle and, according to Timeform, had the distinction of being the second-highest rated steeplechaser since the mid-Sixties. Indeed, Arkle and Flyingbolt, with Timeform Annual Ratings of 212 and 210, respectively, stand head and shoulders above any other steeplechaser in the past five decades or so; Sprinter Sacre, winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival twice, in 2013 and 2016, comes in a remote third in the all-time list, with a rating of 192p.

Speaking of the Cheltenham Festival, Flyingbolt was successful at the March showpiece three years running in 1964, 1965 and 1966 in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Arkle Challenge Trophy and Queen Mother Champion Chase, respectively. According to racing historian John Randall, in the latter race, Flyingbolt ‘triumphed with breathtaking ease by 15 lengths’. Such ease, in fact, that 24 hours later he reappeared in the Champion Hurdle, finishing a close, and arguably unlucky, third behind Salmon Spray.

Less than a month later, in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, Flyingbolt put up arguably his best performance ever. Shouldering the welter burden of 12st 7lb, he beat the useful mare Height O’Fashion, who was receiving 2st 12lb, by two lengths, with the reigning champion Splash, who was receiving 3st 0lb, further behind in third place. Reflecting on that stage of his career, jockey Pat Taaffe said of Flyingbolt, ‘It seemed only a matter a time until he took over from Arkle.’ Sadly, he never did; shortly afterwards he contracted a recurring disease, known as equine brucellosis, and never showed the same level of form again.

Who is Nicky Henderson?

Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Henderson is the son of the late Major John ‘Johnny’ Henderson, a founder of the Racecourse Holdings Trust and, as such, credited with helping safeguard the future of Cheltenham Racecourse in the Sixties. The name of Nicky Henderson, too, is synonymous with Cheltenham, predominantly the Cheltenham Festival, where he has saddled 68 winners, making him the second most successful trainer in history, behind only perennial Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins.

Indeed, Henderson is the leading trainer in the history of both the Champion Hurdle, which he has won eight times and, jointly, alongside Tom Dreaper and Paul Nicholls, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which he has won six times. He has also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Stayers’ Hurdle twice apiece.

Henderson has also won the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship six times including, most recently, in 2019/20. The National Hunt season was brought to a premature end on March 25, as the result of the coronavirus pandemic but, at its close, Henderson had saddled 118 winners, including 15 at Graded level and, more importantly, amassed £2.53 million in total prize money; his seasonal total was £192,550 higher than his nearest rival, reigning Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls.

Henderson, who turns 70 in December, 2020, began his training career as assistant to eight-time Champion Trainer Fred Winter in 1974, before taking out a training licence in his own right four years later. He is currently based at Seven Barrows in Upper Lambourn, Berkshire, the yard to which he moved in 1992.

Which was Harry Skelton’s first Cheltenham Festival winner?

Harry Skelton is the younger son of Olympic gold medal winning showjumper Nick Skelton and stable jockey to his older brother, Dan, at Lodge Hill, near Alcester, Warwickshire in the West Midlands. In 2018/19, Skelton Jnr. enjoyed far and away his most successful season so far, with 178 winners – including his first Grade One winner, Roksana, in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival – and over £2 million in prize money.

In the curtailed 2019/20 campaign, his seasonal tally fell to 97 winners, but nonetheless included two more Grade One winners, Allmankind in the Coral Final Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow and Politologue, trained by Paul Nicholls, in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Indeed, Skelton was named Jockey of the Month for March, 2019 as a result of his victory on the latter.

However, Skelton had recorded his first winner at the Cheltenham Festival three years earlier, courtesy of Superb Story, trained by his brother, in the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle in 2016. Sent off at 8/1 third-favourite, behind 7/1 joint-favourites Great Fields and Wait For Me, the five-year-old could be called the winner some way from home and ran on strongly in the closing stages to beat Fethard Player by two-and-a-half lengths; in so doing, he also became a first Cheltenham Festival winner for Dan Skelton.

What were Ruby Walsh’s first and last winners at the Cheltenham Festival?

County Kildare-born Rupert ‘Ruby’ Walsh, who retired from race riding on May 1, 2019, just two weeks shy of his fortieth birthday, was one of the greatest National Hunt jockeys of all time. All told, in his 24-year riding career, Walsh rode 2,756 winners in Britain and Ireland, include a record 59 at the Cheltenham Festival, where he won the leading jockey award no fewer than 11 times.

Indeed, Walsh rode his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Alexander Banquet, trained by Willie Mullins, in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, as an 18-year-old amatuer, in 1998. Having turned professional later that year, Walsh went on to enjoy a remarkable career during which he would win each of the main ‘championship’ races at the Cheltenham Festival at least twice. Indeed, he won the Stayers’ Hurdle five times, the Champion Hurdle four times, the Queen Mother Champion Chase three times and the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice. His last Cheltenham Festival winner came courtesy of Klassical Dream, again trained by Willie Mullins, in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2019.