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Last Updated: Monday, 25 April, 2005, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Irish celebrate season-long party
Barry Geraghty celebrates winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Kicking King
Grand National:
Champion Chase:
Champion Hurdle
The star of the 2004/05 jumps season was neither a horse nor a jockey nor a trainer - it was a country.

Irish-trained horses have long been winning big races in Britain but rarely can they they have enjoyed such an impact en masse as this season.

Ireland enjoyed a record haul of eight winners at the Cheltenham Festival, including taking all three big races of the meeting for the first time.

And they won the Grand National for the fourth time in seven years.

It started as the season that an English-based horse, Best Mate, could win a historic fourth Gold Cup, thus eclipsing the record of the legendary Arkle.

But the 10-year-old burst a blood vessel days before the race and was unable to take part.

In his absence, King George VI Chase winner Kicking King - who had been ruled out of the race himself at one stage - cruised home.

In a neat twist, Kicking King is trained in Ireland by Tom Taaffe, son of Arkle's rider Pat Taaffe.

The horse's triumph capped the first-ever four-day Cheltenham Festival, an experiment which was generally judged to be a success.

Tony McCoy
Jockey: Tony McCoy
Trainer: Martin Pipe
Owner: David Johnson

Moscow Flyer confirmed his status as the best chaser in the business by regaining his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown.

And Hardy Eustace led home a thrilling Irish one-two-three-four-five to land his second Champion Hurdle in a row.

The Irish party rolled on to Aintree where they had nine winners over the three-day meeting, including Hedgehunter's triumph in the Grand National itself.

It was yet another National win for jockey Ruby Walsh, who also won the Welsh and Irish equivalents and came within a photo finish of an unprecedented grand slam when he was runner-up in the Scottish version.

But one jockey left cursing the National lottery was Tony McCoy, whose wretched luck in the Aintree race continued when his mount Clan Royal was carried out of the race by a loose horse.

McCoy's first season attached to trainer Jonjo O'Neill's yard was not a success either thanks to a virus that shut down the stables for a major chunk of the season.

Yet even that did not stop the Northern Irish jockey from comfortably landing his 10th jump jockey's title with his sixth double-century of winners.

Trainer of 1985 Gold Cup winner Forgive'N'Forget died in October 2004, aged 69
Cooper quit riding in September 2004 at the age of 25 after suffering several bouts of concussion
The only horse to win the Aintree, Scottish and Welsh Nationals was put down in March 2005, aged 17

It was a much closer contest in the trainers' championship between McCoy's old boss Martin Pipe and his Somerset neighbour Paul Nicholls.

The pair battled right to the wire with Pipe emerging victorious once again by just over 72,000 to leave Nicholls still waiting on his first title.

Much of Pipe's ammunition comes from David Johnson, who became the first jumps owner to win more than 100 races in a season.

Pipe and Johnson's new number one jockey, Timmy Murphy, overcame a sticky start to settle in well in his new job and Graham Lee was another rider to earn plenty of plaudits during the season.

Lee continued his successful partnership with the popular Grey Abbey but his biggest win came when Inglis Drever saw off the mighty Baracouda in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham.

That win helped Inglis Drever secure the inaugural Order of Merit with a prize of 250,000 to boost the coffers of his multi-millionaire owner Graham Wylie.





Barry Geraghty had plenty to smile about Review of season
Irish eyes smiling as they dominate jump racing campaign

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