A SO far frustrating season took a turn for the better for Charles Byrnes yesterday as he claimed the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase with the Gigginstown-owned Trifolium.
Less than a month into his new role as Gigginstown's retained rider, Bryan Cooper had his most difficult choice to make yet ahead of Friday's declarations as the owner also had Mozoltov, but despite the betting suggesting otherwise, Cooper got it right as 7/1 shot Trifolium ran out a nine-length winner.
"That throws the form book out the window!" Byrnes said afterwards.
The race centred around the Paul Nolan-trained Defy Logic and the front runner's Cheltenham hopes are most certainly on hold after it was revealed the 11/8 favourite for yesterday's race had burst a blood vessel.
With Solwhit ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival and Arnaud disappointing at Doncaster, Byrnes said afterwards: "It looked for a while that I wasn't going to get to Cheltenham but now I'll have an excuse after all."
He added: "I knew he was in the form of his life but I wasn't expecting him to win it. We put the cheek-pieces on the last day and he probably raced a bit keenly so we took them off today and that helped him settle.
"I just felt our horse was coming back to the same form of Cheltenham two-years ago."
The Cheltenham Bumper was very much on the agenda for Windsor Park, who scooted away from a couple of well regarded rivals to land the finale for Dermot Weld and give Robbie McNamara the perfect return.
McNamara had been out of action since breaking a collarbone on the eve of riding Lord Windermere in the Hennessy at Newbury in December and Weld's opening comment to the awaiting press was: "It's normal order resumed with Robbie."
Of Cheltenham he said: "We will look for a winner's bumper for both him and Silver Concorde (a winner over Christmas) but it is not easy to find one. When we do they'll run and they will tell us about Cheltenham."
While Hurricane Fly took all the plaudits in the big one, it was Ruby Walsh who completed a four-timer on the day that proved just why he is one of the greatest jockeys ever seen when winning bringing up the third and fourth legs on Sure Reef in the Grade Two novice hurdle and Wrong Turn in the handicap chase.
Sure Reef was reported to have traded at 999/1 in running when the horse was dropped into last of the sextet at two out but Walsh's tactical genius was evident.
"Ruby just felt he was very free and couldn't continue to race so keenly and run a race so we wanted to fill his lungs. It wasn't 'Plan A' but I'd say he is a fair sort and he did a fantastic bit of work during the week."
The Tony Martin-trained Quickpick Vic instigated the four-timer, while Wrong Turn completed it with Walsh getting up on the line to deny the gallant runner-up Tabhachtach.