Peace And Co managed to justify a lot of punters’ love by sealing the Triumph Hurdle for Nicky Henderson. The Simon Munir four-year-old opened up on course at 4/1 but set off at a starting price of 2s. In a race that also saw him snatch the second and third places, the Lambourn trainer earned himself his six Triumph Hurdle of his career whilst jockey Barry Geraghty sealed his fourth.
The favourite was allowed to track the leaders from the off, the long time pace-setter being Dicosimo (11/1) who was aggressively ridden by Ruby Walsh, and kept in touch over the second from home. The unbeaten son of Falco showed his hand before the last before being ridden to lead, holding on by a neck from another Munir, Henderson project in Top Notch (7/1). These two finished four lengths to the good of Hargam (8/1) who held a slight lead between the final two obstacles but ran flat. This JP McManus owned charge finished 10 clear of Devilment (16/1).
Whilst the trainer of our tip Beltor (7/1), Robbie Stephens, sounded confident ahead of the race, stating that the now soft ground would ‘not be a problem’, the mount of Tom O’Brien just wasn’t given a chance held at the back of the field. He was never in touch and could only make up ground to complete in sixth.
Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle
Willie Mullins earned his seventh of an eventual eight Festival victories, a record for the number of titles secured in one season, when Wicklow Brave (25/1) romped home the eight length winner in the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle.
In what was a superb hold-up performance from jockey Paul Townend on one of the race’s big outsiders, the Irishman only began to make significant headway approaching the third-out. The 138 rated hurdler took the last, which he belted in what his trainer described as being a potential ‘Annie Power moment’, in the lead and extended strongly to leave eventual second Sort It Out (17/2) for dust.
The 8/1 favourite Quick Jack collected third for Tony Martin in what was another patient ride from claimer Shane Shortall whilst Mullins’ Max Dynamite (14/1) and Anafilet (33/1) battled it out for the minor places in what was an all Irish first five.
Most of the pace in the race came from Orgilgo Bay (33/1) and Violet Dancer (20/1), the former pulling up before the last whilst Gary Moore’s charge managed to finish in 10th.
The Game Changer, our tip at an SP of 8/1, was on the premises coming towards the second from home but failed to pick up and dropped through the field to finish in ninth.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
The 2015 Albert Bartlett will be remembered for a dramatic finish that saw a coming together between two Gigginstown horses that potentially cost them both the win. As Milsean (33/1) took on Martello Tower (14/1) in the straight, Bryan Cooper on No More Heroes (6/1) decided to take a chance up the inside of the eventual second, failing to find an opening and putting both horses off their stride. This allowed Martello Tower to take the plaudits for Margaret Mullins and Adrian Heskin. In another twist of fate, Mullins’ son Danny was riding the horse that was subject to the late interference.
Arbre De Vie (16/1) completed the places in fourth.
All the money was on former Champion Bumper runner-up Black Hercules (5/2), the horse Ruby Walsh described as being his best chance of the day, whilst No More Heroes was nibbled at in from 13/2. The former failed to land a blow on the prominent trio, held up before weakening when in mid-division before the last.
Thomas Brown (12/1), our tip for the Albert Bartlett, was stalking the leaders throughout the establishing stages, making good use of his outside position. He failed to find any sort of rhythm, however, and weakened substantially before the penultimate, pulling up before the last.
Gold Cup Chase
The big one of the Festival – the Gold Cup, and all eyes were on Silviniaco Conti (3/1) who was the hot favourite on his third attempt at the race. Such confidence in the favourite turned out to be misplaced, however, as the Paul Nicholls charge failed to registered himself on the proceedings, his race over before the third-out.
Indeed, the prestigious Grade One was eventually taken by the novice Coneygree (7/1) who lead the 16 runners round from post to post in what was a well-judged front-running performance from Nico De Boinville. The Mark Bradstock charge jumped everything superbly – never looking like the novice he is – and held on to take the crown by a length-and-a-half despite tiring after the last.
In winning, Coneygree justified his connections’ decision to run him in the Gold Cup as opposed to the RSA and he becomes the first novice to win the race since Captain Christy in 1974. When asked about his small yard taking on the big boys prior to the start of proceedings Bradstock confidently exclaimed, ‘We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.’
There was good news for our punters as Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci’s Djakadam (10/1) stayed on well before the last to haul himself into the race and challenge for the top gong in the closing stages. The horse just didn’t do enough for a disappointed and despondent Ruby Walsh but gave a good account of himself. Road To Riches (8/1) was always in with a chance but had to settle for third for Gigginstown whilst Holywell (8/1) was an isolated fourth.
Perhaps the race’s two disappointments were the reigning champion Lord Windermere (20/1) who was positioned right at the tail of the field for the second Gold Cup in a row but limped out of the race without picking off one rival. Similarly, our other tip Bobs Worth failed to make an impression also pulling up.
Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup
A stupid false start and a few minutes off pendency from the starter threatened to over-shadow the Foxhunter Chase, though thankfully Nina Carberry came to the rescue on On The Fringe (6/1), coursing through the field to challenge three-out before taking the lead before the penultimate and extending to record a mammoth 17 length victory over her nearest rival 50/1 outsider Following Dreams.
This victory sealed Carberry’s fifth Festival win of her career and her first in the Foxhunters. It was made all the sweeter following her being dumped out of the Cross Country Chase by Toutencarmont when going well on Quantativeeasing.
On The Fringe was the second favourite for the race though the betting was dominated by the mount of Sam Waley-Cohen, Paint The Clouds (11/4). Like the winner, the Warren Greatrex favourite whistled through the pack from being held-up in mid-division and though he took the lead before the third at the third from home, just could not compete with the Enda Bolger victor who looked so full of running. He was a neck shy of claiming second place whilst had over a length on long time leader Carsontown Boy (11/1) in fourth.
Salsify (10/1) was looking to become the first horse in history to record a hat-trick of wins in the Foxhunter Chase but failed to get going at the tail of the field after striking the third obstacle. He was eventually pulled up before the fourth-out after having not made a mark on the leaders.
Our selection No Loose Change (14/1) was prominent throughout but had his chances squandered by a poor round of jumping. His jockey James King ended his race before the penultimate fence.
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle
We fancied the favourite Roi Des Francs (3/1) in the Martin Pipe but whilst he put in a respectable performance, finishing third, the six-year-old failed to ignite for Willie Mullins. Luckily for the trainer, however, he managed to secure the victory that saw him break the record for the total number of race wins in one Cheltenham Festival thanks to Killultagh Vic (7/1).
It certainly wasn’t easy for the charge of Rose Boyd, the horse hitting a sticky spot after taking the lead at the last – not looking fluent over this obstacle either when tired. This allowed Noble Endeavour (14/1), who had made a similarly probing run through the field to claim his late prominent position, to challenge in the closing stages and the lead was tossed to and fro before Killultagh Vic stole it by a head. Fourth in the field was Kauto Grand Mogol who was six lengths off Roi Des Francs whilst fifth was taken by 25/1 pace-setter Shelford.
The success of Killultagh Vic was also important in that it levelled up the number of winners for Great Britain and Ireland as the two teams both vied for supremacy in the Betbright Cup. Mullins’ winners contributed eight wins to Ireland’s 13 triumphs going into the last.
Grand Annual Handicap Chase
The final race of the meeting was dedicated to the retiring AP McCoy who would be riding his final Festival mount, Ned Buntline (4/1), in this event.
Punters had backed the JP McManus horse into joint-favouritism with Blood Cotil (also 4/1) and whilst he looked dangerous all the way around, had any chance of winning destroyed by poor jumping, his problems exacerbated by Dresden (25/1) who fell when going well at the fourth-out. Dresden’s fall also saw a number of others hampered whilst Brick Red (25/1) unseated Aidan Coleman at the same fence.
The event was eventually taken by Michael and Tom Scudamore in their first 2015 Festival success on Next Sensation. The 16/1 fancy had to improve his jumping following a blunder early on but regained the lead at the ninth and managed to stay on nicely to put four lengths between himself and our tip, second placed Eastlake (12/1).
Jonjo O’Neill’s charge was given a lovely hold-up ride by Paul Carberry, staying on strongly after the penultimate to just miss out when carrying 2lbs more.
Croco Bay (14/1) finished just over a length better off than Ned Buntline whilst eight-year-old Turn Over Sivola (33/1) took fifth.
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