Whisper takes the Coral Cup after photo finish
Published 12/03/2014 | 15:13
Nico de Boinville and Whisper just saw off Tony McCoy on Get Me Out Of Here in a thrilling race for the Coral Cup at Cheltenham.
There was nothing between them up the hill, but it was Whisper (14-1), trained by Nicky Henderson and owned by Dai Walters, who prevailed by a short head.
Bayan was two and a quarter lengths away in third, with Smashing fourth.
The pace was set by Son Of Flicka, the winner in 2012, and Clondaw Kaempfer, as 28 horses set off for the highly-competitive handicap hurdle.
As to be expected there were many in with chances coming to the final flight, and it was De Boinville, a 5lb clamer noted for his riding of Sprinter Sacre in his work, who had Whisper in the right position to deny Get Me Out Of Here, who has now finished second at four Festivals.
De Boinville, who was riding his first Festival winner, said: "You can never be too sure (in photo finishes) but I'm over the moon.
"I got a lovely position and he kept going all the way."
Henderson felt De Boinville's 5lb claim proved crucial.
He said: "When you've got a very good claimer, then it's obvious to try and use him.
"We stopped him (De Boinville) riding for a week because I needed his 5lb claim this week.
"It looked like Whisper had too much weight. I didn't think he could win off top weight, but he has.
"He deserves it, because he was beaten a nose in the Welsh Champion Hurdle.
"That was really annoying as he also went up 6lb for finishing second.
"If he'd been beaten a nose here then I would have really cried."
Walters said: "That's my first Festival winner and I'm lost for words - I'm over the moon."
Jonjo O'Neill was again left to reflect on what could have been after Get Me Out Of Here just failed under McCoy.
He said: "That's the fourth time he's been second here, he's a smashing horse.
"We thought everything was right for him - the ground, the trip and the sun had come out.
"I don't think he ever really got there."
At The Races presenter Gary O'Brien, part-owner of the third-placed Bayan, said: "We're absolutely over the moon.
"Just for a few strides running to the last I thought he might get there but no complaints, he got a beautiful run through.
"He's been an unbelievable little horse."
De Boinville was asked about Sprinter Sacre, who is out for the rest of the season having suffered from an irregular heartbeat when pulled up at Kempton over Christmas.
The rider said: "He's up in Newmarket with (equine specialist) Celia Marr at the moment. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery."