JLT Novices’ Chase
Whilst Vautour was the 6/4 short priced favourite for this, the first race of the third day of the Festival, I don’t think anyone expected the emphatic victory that awaited them. The Rich Ricci, Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh collaboration hacking up the 15 length winner in a strong field. The charge’s jockey was rendered speechless after his mount’s performance whilst non-riding connections emphasised their wish to enter the rising star into next season’s Gold Cup.
It was an utterly beguiling ride from Walsh, Vautour leading the field of eight throughout the duration of the 20f trip as Walsh recorded his fourth Festival success of the year. The rider pushed on with two to jump and his charge responded magnificently. Apache Stronghold (7/1) was the horse that was probing two-out but failed to get on terms with the winner despite frantic encouragement from the on-board Paul Carberry. In the end though he just nicked second by a short-head from our tip, Valseur Lido.
Our Gigginstown fancy did very little wrong though one wonders what might have been had Bryan Cooper managed to keep hold of his whip before the last. Let’s be clear, the Mullins second-string was never going to get anywhere near the winner though could have perhaps reduced the margin to give a much truer winning distance.
The race’s biggest disappointment was without a doubt Ptit Zig (11/2) who failed to make a mark on his rivals in the day three opener.
Pertemps Network Final
There wasn’t much in the frenetic finish of the Pertemps Network Final as Call The Cops (9/1) recorded a one-and-three-quarter length win over Unique Des Cottes (14/1) for Nicky Henderson, David Bass and owners Matt and Lauren Morgan. This, somewhat unbelievably, was the Lambourn trainer’s first victory of this year’s Festival whilst his jockey could celebrate his first Cheltenham Festival win for nine years.
For a long time, however, it looked as though that there may well be another stellar front-running performance on the cards as 7lb claimer Michael Heard looked comfortable on long time leader and 25/1 shout Bygones Sovereign until as late as the third-out. Bass always had Call The Cops in a position to capitalise on the leader as and when he tired and the six-year-old exploited the David Pipe horse’s weaknesses more effectively than the other prominent charges that included Brother Brian (11/1), The Tourard Man (20/1), Henryville (50/1) and the McManus trio of the eventual second, Regal Encore (15/2f) and Join The Clan (16/1).
The Tourard Man just stole third by a neck from Harry Fry’s Henryville. Aqalim completed the places in fifth at a price of 25/1.
As for the tips, Big Easy (11/1) fell through the field after being well in touch two-out and On The Bridge (40/1) was never effective at the back of the field.
AP McCoy managed to at last break his Cheltenham Festival 2015 duck with a win on Uxizandre (16/1) in the Ryanair Chase for JP McManus and Alan King. This win took McCoy’s tally of victories in this event to three, having ridden Albertas Run to success in consecutive years (2010, 2011). The retiring jockey goes clear at the top of the Ryanair leading jockeys championship.
The 40-year-old cut a determined figure on Uxizandre and made sure to establish an early lead in what was another superb front-running performance from the seven-year-old charge. He remained clear too, until the penultimate fence when he was joined by the race’s only mare and our tip Ma Filleule (5/1) and Johns Spirit (8/1) who failed to keep tabs on the leaders when running flat not long after. Indeed, the eventual winner took off again, leaving the Henderson mare for dust in what was to be a five length victory for the McManus mount. Still, place money for us!
Third across the line was the well backed favourite Don Cossack (5/2) who failed to make any sort of impression on the race for George Elliott, Bryan Cooper and Gigginstown. Perhaps the most disappointing runner of them all, however, was Balder Succes (7/1), the two-time Grade One chase winner finishing well back in the field after early jumping errors cost him any chance of sustaining a decent rhythm.
The pair of trainer Warren Greatrex and jockey Gavin Sheehan earned themselves their first ever Festival winner in dramatic style as 14/1 shot Cole Harden made all, Sheehan in the colours of Jill and Robin Eynon.
Despite a fair price, Cole Harden seemed to be overlooked by most, his victory seemingly the most unlikely of the many varied stories in the field. AP McCoy, for example, was looking to secure his first ever World Hurdle on At Fishers Cross (14/1) whilst Aubusson‘s (50/1) jockey Lizzie Kelly was hoping to become the first female Grade One victor at the Festival.
Neither were ever really in with a shout, however, as the Eynon horse took the field from post to post without ever really struggling. Our tip Un Temps Pour Tout (9/1) was in with every chance over the third-out but was soon ridden when the going got tough and found himself unable to get on terms with the eventual winner. The David Pipe charge completed back in sixth.
Whilst 5/1 market leader Saphir Du Rheu got the nearest to Cole Harden, finishing three lengths off the winner, the race’s hard luck story belongs to the other of Paul Nicholls’ horses Zarkandar (6/1). The eight-year-old gave the penultimate fence a shuddering smack when in touch, all but ending his hopes of picking up the title. Whilst he managed to finish behind Saphir Du Rheu in third, his jockey Noel Fehily later told that he was confident his mount would have won without the unlucky error.
It was another case of what might’ve been in the Festival Plate as a false start forced the horses to set off from a standing start. The 11/2 favourite and eventual second Monetaire gave the rest of the field about 10 lengths of advantage in an opening that will see the starter come in for a bucketful of criticism.
Connections of pace-setter King’s Lad (33/1) will also have reason to feel despairing after Daryl Jacob fumbled and dropped his reins when leading the field round in the early stages. In frightening scenes the jockey had to cling on to the neck of the Colin Tizzard charge and guide him off course and out of harm’s way.
This upset meant that the likes of French Opera (50/1), Champion Court (20/1) and Make A Track (16/1) had the job of carving out the early running. Both French Opera and Champion Court were still on the premises going over the fourth-out before Darna (33/1) took advantage of a mistake from the improving Hollow Penny (33/1) to take an unassailable lead at the penultimate.
His victory on Darna gave David Bass his first Festival win of his career in his last ride of the 2015 meeting. It also opened the account of Kim Bailey, two-handed in the race with Un Ace (6/1), who celebrated his first Festival win since Betty’s Boy in 1999. He is the first Gloucestershire-based trainer to taste success this season.
With Monetaire able to weave into second from his dead-last position early on, Rawnaq (25/1) had to set for third with Buywise (15/2) and Hollow Penny completing the minor places in fourth and fifth respectively.
Our 11/1 selection Caid Du Berlais was prominent on the outside until the closing stages, relegated right back into 16th. Our second tip Ayupcharlie (25/1) fared only slightly better in 10th.
Kim Muir Challenge Cup
Things looked like they might be going from bad to worse for our tips with one of our two Kim Muir selections, Benbens (16/1) being the first of the field of 24 to find himself out of the race, unseating Steven Clements over the seventh. As it happens the horse was only one of a number of entrants to part company with their jockeys, the most dramatic departure of all being Sixty Something‘s fall when leading at the fourth from home. The 33/1 shout brought down a trio of horses in Across The Bay (66/1), Masters Hill (16/1) and The Nephew (50/1).
Luckily for us, however, we managed to secure ourselves a real juicy profit as Bless The Wings was able to weave his way through the pack, avoid all the jumping drama and steal second place for George Elliott and Nina Carberry at odds of 33/1.
Despite staying on superbly, Bless The Wings was still unable to get anywhere near the race’s eventual winner The Package (9/1), the elder statesman of the race giving Jamie Codd his second winning ride of the 2015 Festival for David Pipe. The 12-year-old who becomes the oldest winner of the race since Waggoners Walk in 1981 was prominent throughout, stalking the long time leaders until showing his hand two-out.
The Package recorded a 12 length victory over Bless The Wings, was 13 lengths clear of Buddy Bolero (20/1) in third and was a full 19 lengths better off than fourth placed Grand Vision (11/1). Heaney (20/1) completed the minor places in fifth.
Take a look at our latest Cheltenham Festival Day three tips today!