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“It would be a dream come true” – Houlihan hopeful ahead of potential Champion Chase classic

“It would be a dream come true” – Houlihan hopeful ahead of potential Champion Chase classic “It would be a dream come true” – Houlihan hopeful ahead of potential Champion Chase classic
Kieran Foley

By Jordan Norris

Having already tasted Grade One glory at Prestbury Park, Dungarvan jockey Niall Houlihan is hopeful that he can catapult his career to new heights on Wednesday when he rides Editeur Du Gite in the Champion Chase at the world-renowned Cheltenham Festival.

The 22-year-old West Waterford rider has drawn plaudits from all over the world this season for his exploits in the saddle on the Gary Moore-trained Editeur Du Gite, with the pair combining to capture the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park in December, before following up that success with a statement victory in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham at odds of 14/1.

That success has seen Houlihan’s mount shortened into odds of 13/2 for the seasonal chasing highlight, as he again takes on the likes of Edwardstone and Energumene come 3:30 on March 15th. While the weight of expectation draws in with each passing moment, Houlihan has remained calm, and is aware he holds a position enviable to many.


“We’re both feeling well”, said Houlihan. “I’m really looking forward to it. It’s the Mecca of our season, it’s the big week for all trainers and jockeys. I’m going to Cheltenham with a live chance, and I know that’s a very lucky position to be in.”

A taking element of Editeur Du Gite’s victory in the Clarence House Chase was the grit shown by Houlihan’s horse when he was headed by a strong-travelling Edwardstone in the finishing straight, eventually battling back to settle the issue by a neck. The Dungarvan jockey says Editeur Du Gite is hitting his peak at the perfect time for connections.

“I’ve always been told that the difference between a good horse and a Graded horse is that the special ones can go to the dark places and eek everything out of themselves”, he explained. “They know where the line is and they want to do it. He was never the strongest of finishers up through his novice career, but he just seems to be peaking this season. He’s in great order at home and the way he finished out the Clarence House showed that. He really stamped his authority as a Champion Chase contender.”

The initial plan for Editeur Du Gite was to run at handicap level for much of the campaign, but one cancelled meeting later saw him change direction and aim to take his chance in the Desert Orchid at Kempton in December. The rest as they say is history.


“We started off with him at Cheltenham this year and he came fourth in a handicap. He’s a big horse and sometimes you just need a run to get him right. Everything else has just fallen into plan since really. We went to the Desert Orchid and we went there fresh, and he showed us everything he’s capable of with a very good performance. He’s won a Grade 2 and a Grade 1 now. He owes us nothing. We’re delighted with where we’re at and how he is going into the Champion Chase.”

Houlihan is unphased at the prospect of going head-to-head with the likes of Paul Townend on Energumene and last year’s Arkle winner Edwardstone, trained by Alan King. The 64-time winner says while he respects the opposition, his task is simply to focus on what he has been instructed to do and maximise the potential for his mount to be first home.

“At the end of the day, you’re only riding a horse around a field”, said the Grade 1 winning jockey. “We’re taking on the better horses but at the end of the day it’s just a race and I’m on one of the better horses as well. I respect any chance that Willie Mullins sends over, and Alan King – they’re both legendary trainers and people that know Cheltenham very well. The boss man has our horse in very good order. I have full faith that he’s going to run a very good race.”

Having tasted the allure of a Grade One win at the most famous track in jumps racing, there is definitely a desire to repeat the trick for young Houlihan. He is holding his cards close to his chest, but admits a victory of such high-calibre could be the catalyst for many bigger and better days.

“It would be a dream come true”, he admitted. “Whether dreams come true in real life, I’m not quite sure yet. It would mean a lot. No matter what I could do later on in my career, I’ll always have my Grade 1 winner in the Clarence House. They can’t take it off me. I’ve had a Grade 1 winner at Cheltenham already outside of the festival. If I could do this now, it would be a career high for me and it’d also put my name out there into the very top level. It could happen, it might not happen but whatever happens – we’re going there and we’ll give it our best.”