Harrington Cheltenham's golden girl due to Power surge

Pirate IRWIN
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Irish trainer Jessica Harrington celebrates after winning the Gold Cup with her runner Sizing John on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival horse racing meeting on March 17, 2017

Irish trainer Jessica Harrington waited till she was 70 to have her first runner in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but her patience paid off when Sizing John eased home on Friday.

Given a superb ride by Robbie Power, who put behind him a season which has seen him sidelined with a serious eye problem and a fractured cheekbone, Sizing John seized the initiative at the second last when favourite and two-time runner-up Djakadam hit it so hard he broke part of the obstacle.

Victory ensured Harrington became the most successful woman trainer in Festival history and sees her join two-time winner Jenny Pitman and three-time winner Henrietta Knight in the Cheltenham Gold Cup Hall of Fame.

The duo rounded off the four day Festival with another winner, Rock The World -- their third of the week and Harrington's 11th at the Festival including the Champion Hurdle and the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

"This is the jewel in the crown, absolutely amazing," said Harrington.

"The Gold Cup is the race I've listened to at first -- being of that pre-TV racing generation -- and then watching it since I was so high."

For Power the victory meant more than when he won the 2007 Grand National.

"This is even more special. I was 25 when I won the National and took it for granted I would win everything after that..now I'm 35, reality has long since bitten on my complacency."

Indeed it was a memorable St Patrick's Day for the Irish as they won five of the seven races.

Willie Mullins took two victories to finish on six winners alongside compatriot Gordon Elliott who edged the title because of more placed horses to finish on 19 winners to the home team's nine in what is viewed as the Olympics of the sport.

Mullins's sublime training skills were perfectly encapsulated by Arctic Fire's thrilling victory in the County Hurdle under top weight -- no one had carried as much since 1960 -- and over 14 months since his last run.

Given a beautifully-judged ride by Mullins's number two jockey Paul Townend, the 20/1 shot found the reserves to repel the sterling challenge of second top weight L'Ami Serge.

"Amazing performance 418 days off the track it was touch and go to get him here," said Mullins, who revealed his star two-mile chaser Douvan had suffered a stress fracture of the pelvis during the Queen Mother Champion Chase but should be back next season.

Townsend and Mullins doubled their tally in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle with 16/1 chance Penhill, owned by Brighton football club owner Tony Bloom.

The Triumph Hurdle saw the bookies take a beating as 5/2 favourite Defi du Seuil won in impressive style to give trainer Philip Hobbs his third win in the race.

A tearful Hobbs advised caution that he would target the Champion Hurdles next year -- wisely perhaps as only three Triumph winners have gone on to win the race.

"It is out of relief as he has been favourite all year," said Hobbs.

Pascha de Polder -- the horse that track cycling great Victoria Pendleton rode last year at Cheltenham -- captured the Foxhunters Chase to give champion trainer Paul Nicholls his first winner of the Festival under an inspired ride by Bryony Frost, daughter of Grand National winning jockey Jimmy.