Cheltenham Festival: Reports for day four
Posted in: Cheltenham Festival News
Trainer Willie Mullins saddled no less than seven of the 15 runners and he had the first four home, with the grey becoming just the fifth filly in history to take the prize.
Though Gala Marceau (100-30) stayed on well to take second spot from Zenta (12-1), the race was over once the 11-8 favourite cruised up on the bridle to take it up after jumping the penultimate flight and she was eased to a two-and-a-quarter-length success at the line.
Gust Of Wind completed the Mullins quartet, with jockey Paul Townend recording his fourth winner of the week.
It was the Closutton handler’s third win in the race in four years, having previously struck with Burning Victory in 2020 and Vauban last year.
Mullins said: “She travelled into the race at maybe the five-furlong marker and rather than fighting her Paul just let her gallop and held onto her as much as he could for a long as he could.
“He thought she was actually idling come up the straight and thinks there is a little bit more in the tank – she looks a star mare.
“But for the traffic problems in Leopardstown she’d be unbeaten for us. I’m very happy with how they all ran, bar Blood Destiny (finished ninth) who was disappointing. I don’t know what happened to him, but all the rest ran their race.
“It’s a nice start to the day.”
Asked whether Lossiemouth could be a candidate for next year’s Champion Hurdle, Mullins added: “She’s a possibility the way she came up that hill there anyway. There’s every possibility that she’ll go down that route.”
Delighted owner Rich Ricci, celebrating his 20th Festival winner, said: “I felt unlucky on the day after her last run and I’m delighted the one who beat us that day was second as it franks the form. She’s a lovely filly with a lot of scope, she’s National Hunt bred and is very nice.
“Paul said coming down the hill she wanted to crack on, he held on to her just enough, she filled up and she responded to him which is great as it shows maturity. He said when he let him go she was great.
“I'm glad for Paul as Willie hammered him the last day. For the record I didn’t think it was Paul’s fault I thought the tactics were wrong so it’s Willie’s fault actually! Willie had his best Jose Mourinho moment and found someone else to blame, but on the day Paul was gutted. Sport is about redemption, I always say that.
“It’s great to be a part of this, Tuesday was such a special day with Honeysuckle and Constitution Hill, then yesterday with Henry (de Bromhead) winning on the day there was a race named after Jack (de Bromhead), it’s a very special week.
“To have a winner is special, it’s our 20th winner but you never take it for granted, we’ve had enough losers.”
Faivoir digs deep to give Skelton another County Hurdle
Dan Skelton annexed the McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle for a fourth time in eight years as 33-1 shot Faivoir downed Pied Piper in a thrilling finish.
Both horses came from out of the pack after Highway One O Two had kicked clear turning for home and there were plenty in with chances approaching the last.
However, Bridget Andrews’ mount, who had been pulled up on quicker ground in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on his previous start, kept responding in these easier conditions and got the verdict in a head-bobber.
Pied Piper, who had finished third in the Triumph Hurdle last year, was making his handicap debut mark off a mark of 154 and only just failed to reel in the winner, having nodded slightly on landing at the last.
The well-supported Filey Bay held every chance but could only finish third, while Sharjah stuck on for fourth, followed by Ballyadam.
Skelton, who won this race previously with Superb Story (2016), Mohaayed (2018) and Ch’tibello (2019), also saddled the favourite, but Pembroke, who had finished runner-up on Trials day in January, was well held after making a couple of minor jumping errors.
“Last time at Newbury he absolutely winged the first but after the second he had no chance,” said Skelton, who was on the mark with Langer Dan on Wednesday.
“Today Bridget gave him a great ride – when you have one of the biggest teams as we do there’s a responsibility that goes with it and you feel you have get big winners.
“To have one (at the Festival) is good, but to have two shows you are doing it right.”
Stay Away Fay sticks on well to land Albert Bartlett
Paul Nicholls earned his second Grade One victory of the week at the Cheltenham Festival when Stay Away Fay was given a masterful ride by Harry Cobden to take the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
The 18-1 chance travelled well throughout and was always up with the pace in the three-mile test, which provided its usual searching test of stamina.
It was not without incident, either, as favourite Corbetts Cross ran out at the final flight, sending jockey Mark Walsh crashing to the turf.
Though challenging at the time, the winner seemed to have his measure having led at the second-last where plenty were still in with a chance.
Cobden put the six-year-old’s stamina to good use and gradually wore down his rivals to give the champion trainer his first success in the race.
Noel Meade’s Affordale Fury (150-1) relished the step up in trip and got within a length of the winner, just holding second from the Paul Nolan-trained Sandor Clegane.
Nicholls said: “I thought he’d run well as he should have won the last day and he’s taken a step forward since then and he looked fantastic.
“We were very positive on him today, he jumped really well and it’s only the third run of his life, there’s loads of improvement to come.
“We’ll probably go to Aintree with him if he’s all right, otherwise it will be chasing next year.
“He’s been quite backward, that’s the best he’s jumped today, he’s just a young, improving horse.”
He added: “At home he does all his work with Hermes Allen as they are both a bit one-paced and he has taken a big step forward.
“He probably should have won at Doncaster, he’s improved since and it’s just fantastic.
“I think Hermes Allen will probably have a wind op but he’ll go chasing too, they are two really nice horses to go chasing with.”
Premier Magic prevails in Hunter Chase
Prolific point-to-point winner Premier Magic, trained and ridden by Bradley Gibbs, sprang a 66-1 shock in the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase.
Rocky’s Howya had made much of the running and was still upsides jumping the second last as Gibbs made his move.
Though looking booked for minor honours, he was hampered by a loose horse and as Premier Magic started to empty, Its On The Line (28-1) stayed on late under Derek O’Connor.
Yet the winner just had enough in reserve to fend off the challenge and win by a length and three-quarters, with Shantou Flyer (50-1) finishing third.
For Gibbs, who equipped the gelding with cheekpieces, it was a career-high moment, yet it was also slightly bittersweet.
He said: “The worst part about it is my partner and my son aren’t here today. We couldn’t get a babysitter and my dad’s in hospital having a heart operation today. It’s really special but I just wish they could have been here.
“It was unbelievable, my fiancee’s father owns him and we came here last year thinking we had a chance.
“I rode him down the inside and everything just got a bit tight for him, he just got stage fright really. I rode him wide today and he was a completely different horse.
“The way he’s been winning his point-to-points, we always thought he was good enough to win a big race like this and thank god it’s paid off today.”
Impervious fends off Allegorie de Vassy in Mares' Chase
Impervious battled to a well-earned success in the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase, as Colm Murphy returned to the Cheltenham winner’s circle.
The JP McManus-owned seven-year-old found herself locked in a race for the line with Willie Mullins’ Allegorie De Vassy.
Under Brian Hayes it was Impervious who got her head in front, triumphing to maintain her unbeaten record over fences.
It was a fifth Festival success for Murphy, but the first since Empire Of Dirt in 2016 for the man who saddled Brave Inca to land the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2004 and the Champion Hurdle two years later.
Murphy said: “I’m absolutely delighted, she was very tough, it’s fantastic.
“To be stood here again is one of the reasons I came back (after spell away from training), this is why we all do it. I’m just fortunate enough to have another really good one.
“I’ve always really liked her, right through her bumper and hurdle days. You hope and hope that one day they’ll go and do what she’s just done.
“Looking at that I would agree that she’d get further if we wanted her to, I’d say we’ve got loads of options with her.
“I actually don’t know if she’ll run again this season. I’d say we’ll get her home, give her a few entries and take it from there.
“I was wearing a lucky shamrock, it’s clearly done the trick.”
Iroko battles to land Martin Pipe
Iroko landed the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle for Aidan Kelly and co-trainers Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero.
The JP McManus-owned gelding was a 6-1 chance and reeled in the leader, Paul John Gilligan’s Buddy One, to prevail by a length and a half from No Ordinary Joe – also owned by McManus.
“I can’t describe it really – amazing,” said Greenall.
“We always knew the horse was nice but we just thought we’d be tapped for toe a little bit here.
“He managed to hold his position, he came off the bridle early enough and just jumped so well even when he was off the bridle.
“He’s so easy, so straightforward. He’s tough, honest, he shows nothing at home.
“He’s not a good work horse but he’s so straightforward, he doesn’t take much work. He’s a dream.”