Sealed with a kiss
Big Buck's and Albertas Run both retained their big-race crowns at Cheltenham yesterday as Ruby Walsh and Tony McCoy starred in the saddle on a day of repeat winners at Prestbury Park.
McCoy got the St Patrick's Day fixture off to the best possible start for Irish punters when Paul Nolan's well-backed Noble Prince landed the inaugural running of the Jewson Chase in convincing style.
That was the Antrim man's 200th winner of the season, and he didn't have to wait long for his second of the week when 6/1 shot Albertas Run fought off all-comers to secure back-to-back triumphs in the Ryanair Chase.
In between, the David Pipe-trained Buena Vista scorched to victory for a second consecutive pillar-to-post rout in the Pertemps Hurdle.
Big Buck's then followed suit under a canny Ruby Walsh steer to become the first horse to ever land three World Hurdles in succession.
The Ladbrokes-sponsored Grade One proved a tactical affair, but the 10/11 favourite never looked like coming undone.
Pipe's exciting Grands Crus laid down a challenge to Big Buck's on the run to the last having raced a long way off the slow pace. However, the grey couldn't get past Paul Nicholls' eight-year-old, which was winning for an 11th consecutive time over flights.
Walsh, who lost his whip approaching the final flight, was riding his fourth winner of the week.
"I came to this week's Festival knowing I would ride Quevega, Big Buck's Master Minded and Kauto Star, who were all trying to win at the meeting for a third time," he stated afterwards.
"Not many horses achieve that, and while Quevega had it a bit easier than Big Buck's, it's great to be associated with both horses.
"Grands Crus looked the one we had to beat, and Mourad (third) has done nothing wrong all winter, but Big Buck's sets the standard.
"He's such a good horse and has such a big engine, that even when you make a schoolboy error and lose your whip in a Grade One race he gets you out of trouble."
McCoy's determined victory on Albertas Run was his third at the Festival on Jonjo O'Neill's 10-year-old, the partnership also combining to win the 2008 RSA Chase.
Rubi Light, representing Robbie Hennessy's County Meath stable, put it up to Albertas Run for a long way, eventually coming home a brave third under Andrew Lynch.
“He just loves the place,” O’Neill said of Albertas Run’s Festival record. “He was very unfortunate when he fell at Ascot because he was going to run a blinder behind Master Minded and he had a few problems on and off between then and now. Everything just came right today and you need that when you come to Cheltenham.”
Noble Prince’s success in the opener brought the Irish tally for the week to 10, which equalled the previous best set in 2006. The son of Montjeu gave Wexford-based Paul Nolan a first win here since Dabiroun in 2005.
“That was a super ride from him (Tony McCoy) and super from the horse – he came up when he was asked and he was fantastic,” said Nolan. “Since Dabiroun, we’ve had a few disappointing runners and some long faces here, but we’ve laid that to rest. It’s just great to be among the winners and one of the best feelings of my life.”
Amateur Jamie Codd completed a brace for David Pipe on Junior in the Kim Muir Chase, while Davy Russell received a three-day ban for careless riding on Powerstation in the World Hurdle – having already earned a two-day ban for carrying two pounds overweight on Carlito Brigante on Wednesday.
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