There were two unfortunate jockeys who missed out on their rides in the Gold Cup; Davy Russell who suffered a punctured lung on Thursday and Paul Carberry whose horse was brought down in the third. AP McCoy stepped into the breach for Russell’s mount Sir Des Champs and Sam Twiston-Davies took over on Monbeg Dude. As they went down to the start for the big race Bobs Worth with Barry Geraghty up was favourite with Sir Des Champs, Long Run. Silviniaco Conti and The Giant Bolster all well fancied. the first mile. Coming down to the last it was Bobs Worth, Sir Des Champs and Long Run all in with a fighting chance but Bobs Worth continued his unbeaten record at Cheltenham and stormed up the hill to take it, giving Nicky Henderson his 50th Festival winner. Sir Des Champs was in second with Long Run holding on for the third. The JCB Triumph Hurdle saw Our Conor take it by an impressive 15 lengths from Far West; the first time in 11 years the Irish have been victorious. 20 year old jockey Brian Cooper made it two for two in the second, partnering Ted Veale in the County Hurdle when snatching it from Tennis Cap who was running well and looked to have everyone else in trouble. In the third race favourite At Fisher’s Cross gave AP McCoy his first win of the Festival with his stamina shining through. There was a photo finish for second which was awarded to African Gold over Inish Island. Earlier on in the contest, I Shot the Sheriff fell bringing down Our Vinnie which aggravated Paul Carberry’s already injured shoulder putting him out of the Gold Cup. In the Foxhunter Salsify repeated his first from last year. But he was lucky that Oscar Delta ducked in towards the tape with Jane Managan who was unseated. Salisfy was struggling to catch Oscar Delta when Managan went out the side door leaving him free to score. The Martin Pipe gave Paul Nicholls his first festival winner this year as Salubrious cruised up and won by seven lengths from Nagpur. The final race of the Festival 2013 was another Irish victory as Alderwood led home Kid Cassidy giving JP McManus a one two and the Irish a record 14 victories over 13 British. There was a shadow over the day as JT McNamara is still in hospital seriously ill but the latest news is that he is stable after an operation on vertebrae in his neck. Best wishes to him from me and all at JPFestival.com. Four action-packed days with stunning victories, record-breaking feats, heartache and a lot of fantastic horses. Roll on next year.
Another day in the sun at Cheltenham and it was a bad day for the punters and jockeys, with unexpected results and injury, rife. The Jewson Novice’s Steeple Chase saw Benefficient bravely fight back to beat the favourite Dynaste. A photo result declared the 100/1 shot Changing Times third. In the Pretemps Holywell hung on from Captain Sunshine, travelling well from a long way out. Trainer Jonjo O’Neill said, ” I was a bit worried when Richie (McLernon) came to the front such a long way from home but he did well.” Captain Sunshine’s jockey Paddy Brennan was banned for nine days due to incorrect use of the whip which would appear to rule him out of his Grand National ride on Imperial Commander. Jockey Davy Russell suffered a spontaneous punctured lung and will be spending the night at Cheltenham Hospital. No decisions have been made about who will be riding his Gold Cup mount tomorrow as yet. In the Ryanair Cue Card from a long way out whilst the favourite First Lieutenant had made an error at the third last and came second but it looked as though he would have struggled to catch the leader anyway. The Ladbrokes World Hurdle was missing Big Bucks this year, who has won the last four consecutive years, due to a leg injury. Paul Carberry aboard Solwhit rode a great finish despite being very stiff from a couple of nasty falls. He was unable to move yesterday and has flown his doctor over from Ireland to prescribe painkillers. Celestial Halo ran bravely but was beaten into second. Solwhit is the first Irish winner of the World Hurdle for 18 years. Venetia Williams’ Carrickboy held on to win from Vino Griego in the fifth. Tartak ran a valiant race but is dogged by wind problems and finished third. In the Kim Muir the photo finish gave it to Same Difference on the nod, with gallant Super Duty just missing out. J T McNamara had a punishing fall when Galaxy Rock crashed into the first fence. He was airlifted to hospital and was conscious after his fall but is now in an induced coma at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol. The Cross Country race was delayed by 30 minutes due to J T McNamara’s fall and then there was a false start. When they eventually got off Wedger Pardy and Passato set off at a cracking pace clearly wanting to get home in the daylight. They tired near the finish and Big Shu stormed up to win at 14-1. Shakervilz came close but couldn’t catch him and Outlaw Pete took third. The Charity race in aid of Cancer Research UK took place in failing light and Newmill certainly wasn’t hanging around getting to around 25 lengths ahead of Shinko Moon who was 10 lengths ahead of the rest of the field before they began to close the gap. Age of Glory with Brian Bunyan were victorious.
Day two at the Cheltenham Festival dawned slightly warmer than yesterday and the name on everyone’s lips was Sprinter Sacre. The big bay looked in a class of his own as he danced around the parade ring before the Queen Mother Champion Chase today. He didn’t disappoint, jumping brilliantly apart from a tiny mistake at the ditch and storming up to the post to beat Sizing Europe by 19 effortless lengths. Trainer Nicky Henderson said, ” It was the worst 5 minutes of my life, absolute hell. He finds it so ridiculously easy you worry complacency could creep in.” Sprinter’s jockey Barry Geraghty said, “He’s top class. Hopefully he’ll stay sound and we will get a lot of fun out of him.” The first two races on the card were a father and son affair; Willie Mullins and Patrick Mullins taking the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase with Back in Focus. The favourite swept past Tofino Bay as he tired on the run up. Willie Mullins was a very proud father in the winner’s enclosure and it meant a lot to him to have a winner with his son up. The Twiston-Davies family were celebrating after the Neptune Investments Novices Hurdle when the better ground allowed The New One to show off his turn of foot. Rule the World fought valiantly but couldn’t match the pace. The favourite Pont Alexandre came third and didn’t seem to be travelling from quite a way out. Willie Mullins said he was disappointed and perhaps soft ground is the key. Lord Windermere managed to edge out Goulanes in the RSA Steeple Chase. His jockey Davy Russell said, “All credit to Jim Culloty and the lads, I only had to steer him today.” The Coral Cup went to outsider Medinas trained by Alan King. There was a photo finish for second which Alan King also clinched with Meister Eckhart by a nose and Willie Mullins’ Fiveforthree took third after an absence of 727 days. The Fred Winter was claimed by Flaxon Flare who cleared the last gaining lengths in the air and charged up the hill winning by four and a half lengths. The Bumper was won by a rarity; a horse ridden by Ruby Walsh, trained by Willie Mullins with a starting price of 25-1. Briar Hill takes Willie Mullins bumper wins total up to 8. Tomorrow the two big races are Ryanair Chase and the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. The current favourites are First Lieutenant in the Chase and Oscar Whisky in the World Hurdle.
Cheltenham Festival got off to a flying start today with Willie Mullins’ yard clinching three wins all ridden by Ruby Walsh. Racegoers were on tenterhooks this morning following lows of minus 12 overnight and concerns the frost covers wouldn’t be enough to save Champion Day. A course inspection gave the all clear but the first race was moved back to 2.05pm and the Cross Country race had to be rescheduled for Thursday Evening at 5.15pm as the course was frozen. The Charity race will be taking place on Thursday evening after the Cross Country. The Cheltenham roar heralded the start of the Supreme Novice’s Hurdle in which Champagne Fever (Willie Mullins) led the whole way round and still had enough left in the tank to beat off the challenge of favourite My Tent or Yours. Ruby Walsh said, “He jumped like a stag and when AP (McCoy, My Tent or Yours) got me he just stuck his head down and went again.” The Arkle Challenge Trophy was taken by the favourite Simonsig and although he didn’t display his usual spark he hung on from brave outsider Baily Green. Young Brendan Powell, 18, following in his father’s footsteps had his first Festival winner today in the JLT Speciality Handicap on Golden Chieftan. There were doubts about the horse’s ability to stay but he finished well ahead of favourite Our Mick. His jockey said, “I was delighted to get the ride at Cheltenham never mind a win,” as he rode in. The main race of the day, the Stan James Champion Hurdle had the crowd roaring and throwing hats in the air as Hurricane Fly reclaimed his crown from last year’s winner Rock on Ruby. He had supporters worried at the start of the race when it looked as though he wasn’t travelling well but he produced a gutsy finish. The OLGB Mares’ Hurdle launched Quevega into the record books as she became the second horse to win a Cheltenham Festival race five times, (Golden Miller being the first winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup from 1932-36). Ruby Walsh had a job to pick her up and catch the front runners but she got her nose in front of Sirene d’Ainay on the run to the line. The final race on the card went to Nicky Henderson’s Rajdhani Express with the favourite Colour Squadron an also ran. The frost covers have gone down again this evening and there will be a precautionary inspection in the morning at 8.00am. Tomorrow all eyes are on Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion chase, the outstanding jumper is looking unbeatable.