Cheltenham Day Two: Champagne Fever pops a winner for Willie Mullins
CHAMPAGNE Fever gave trainer Willie Mullins a seventh success in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.
Mullins has farmed the Grade One event since its inception and gave his son Patrick the leg-up aboard this 16-1 shot.
Mullins jnr decided to take them all on, leading from the off as well-supported favourite New Year's Eve was dropped into the pack.
Barry Geraghty looked to be going ominously well on the John Ferguson-trained favourite at the top of the hill and he made his break for the lead some way out.
However, Champagne Fever was not for passing and he bravely stuck his head out to prevail by a length and a quarter from New Year's Eve.
Mullins perceived first string Pique Sous finished third, just a head adrift.
Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Nicky Henderson continued his spectacular afternoon as Une Artiste gave him his fourth winner in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The master of Seven Barrows had already claimed Grade One prizes with Champion Chase hero Finian's Rainbow, RSA scorer Bobs Worth and Neptune winner Simonsig.
This victory was at a lesser level, and at a far bigger price, as she was sent off at 40-1 in the hands of Jeremiah McGrath.
Kazlian looked to have stolen a march on his rivals when kicking clear down the hill, but he was a spent force approaching the final flight.
Une Artiste came with a strong run and kicked on up the hill to beat Edeymi by a length and three-quarters.
Favourite Vendor ran an amazing race to finish third, with his rider Robert Thornton hard at work from the halfway stage.
Kazlian passed the post fourth.
More to follow...
Son Of Flicka gave Donald McCain and Jason Maguire their second winner of the week with a fine performance in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham.
The pair struck with Cinders And Ashes in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle on Tuesday and this 16-1 chance had previous Festival form having finished a narrow second in last year's Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle.
He was still one of a number in with a chance coming down the hill and he quickened off the bend to remain right in the mix.
Joint-favourite Get Me Out Of Here came to challenge after the final flight, but Son Of Flicka kept up the gallop to score by three and a half lengths.
Get Me Out Of Here finished second for the third successive year at the Festival, with Veiled and Silverhand filling the places.
sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase
Finian's Rainbow completed a magical afternoon for trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Barry Geraghty as he landed the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
The duo had earlier claimed two Grade One victories, and Finian's Rainbow topped off the day in style as he overturned defending champion Sizing Europe after a thrilling finish.
The last fence was dolled off after an nasty fall on the first circuit and Finian's Rainbow passed the post a length and a quarter to the good after a long run up the hill.
The two-mile championship was an incident-packed race with Kauto Stone, half-brother to the great Kauto Star, crashing out at the very first obstacle.
Wishfull Thinking rocketed to the front under Richard Johnson and was pulling strongly before clattering the fence in front of the stands and suffering a nasty fall which saw him tumble through the rails and apparently into a crowd of bystanders.
That left 4-5 favourite Sizing Europe in front and Andrew Lynch was obliged to make the running with Geraghty hunting him round while the other runners just fell away.
Former champion Big Zeb just could not go with them and it had turned into a clear match race some way from home.
A lacklustre leap from Sizing Europe gave Finian's Rainbow a chance to move upsides and the pair were neck and neck at the top of the hill.
With the last fence out of action due to Wishfull Thinking's fall, Geraghty held the best position on the outside and he utilised that to the full as the pair had to steer past the last.
With his momentum checked slightly again, Sizing Europe was headed and could not find the extra gear required to peg back the 4-1 winner.
Big Zeb plugged on for a 15-length third.
Johnson was stretched into the racecourse ambulance as a precaution but was conscious and talking to officials.
BOBS Worth, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty, won the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Previously unbeaten chaser Grands Crus was all the rage for the Grade One contest but while he made stealthy progress to challenge for the lead running down the hill, in the end he was unable to go with the front two.
Battling with Bobs Worth was First Lieutenant, but the former was beginning to win the argument by the time he approached the final fence.
The 9-2 chance jumped it well and found plenty for pressure to beat First Lieutenant, with Call The Police coming home in third.
Strongly-backed market leader Grands Crus faded into fourth place.
Tom Scudamore settled Grands Crus for the first half of the extended three-mile journey, but he looked to be travelling all over the front pair when joining them running to the second-last.
In the end, however, he simply looked to be outstayed by both Bobs Worth and First Lieutenant, winners of Grade One novice hurdles at the meeting 12 months ago.
Geraghty said: "He just keeps winning. He's a simple sort really, he jumps and he tries.
"He won his three hurdles round here and now he's won his chase so he's four from four. He's just so genuine."
Henderson added: "What a tough horse. Barry gave him a wonderful ride but he's got to do that because he sold the thing to me!
"We have had our problems with the horse through the winter and we never thought he would get here.
"Everybody has worked incredibly hard and it's been a long battle to get him back."
Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle
Simonsig won a dramatic renewal of the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Nicky Henderson-trained 2-1 favourite triumphed in the hands of Barry Geraghty, but his task was eased a little as Cotton Mill, who was sitting in second, refused at the second-last obstacle.
That left Simonsig clear and he cruised to a seven-length victory over Felix Yonger, with Monksland another 11 lengths away in third.
Geraghty said: "He's a serious horse. I was hoping it was going to be as it was.
"He's a class act, but he's more of a chaser of the making."
Outsider Fiulin blazed into an early lead, but Denis O'Regan was keen not to let him get too far in front and began to reel him in aboard Cotton Mill.
Geraghty all the while sat quietly aboard the winner, hunting round before starting to take a more prominent position four flights from home.
Cotton Mill was still in front at that point as Simonsig cruised up on his outside, but John Ferguson's horse was not finished with yet.
However, he stuttered into the penultimate obstacle, unshipping O'Regan and leaving Simonsig with the race at his mercy.
Henderson had extra reason to celebrate as Simonsig's victory gave him his 41st success at the meeting, making him the leading Cheltenham Festival trainer of all time.
Of the record, Henderson said: "It's lovely, but you feel a bit overawed as you're talking about the legendary Fulke Walwyn (former leading Festival trainer).
"We have been very lucky over the years and I have some lovely horses like this one.
"It's all about teams and people and I'm just grateful to all of them."
The master of Seven Barrows is looking forward to seeing his charge jump a fence in time, although he does not expect him to be tackling three miles.
He continued: "He's got so much natural talent you could easily run him over two miles.
"Barry was just keen to run here as he thought it might give him more chance to get his jumping together.
"He was still a bit untidy, but he'll learn and he's going to go and jump fences.
"I think the bigger the obstacle we might find the better he'll jump.
"I don't know if he'd want three miles as this (horse) is very quick.
"I see no point in going any further than you have to and he could easily come back to two miles."
Winning owner Ronnie Bartlett added: "We were always nervous about giving him so much hype and we didn't know if it was going to work or not, but the horse is fantastic.
"Well done to Nicky. He's a class act, he's really good at what he does, and he's a nice person to go with it."
Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase
Teaforthree and JT McNamara took top honours in the Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The 5-1 favourite sat handily throughout the four-mile test and produced some prodigious leaps in the hands of his top amateur.
While plenty were struggling down the hill, Teaforthree continued to pour it on, with another prominently-ridden horse, Four Commanders, his closest pursuer under Nina Carberry.
There was little to choose between the pair jumping the final fence, but it was Teaforthree that got away from it the quicker.
He stayed on up the hill to score by two lengths, giving trainer Rebecca Curtis her first Festival winner.
Harry The Viking, part-owned by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, finished off his race strongly to beat Four Commanders to the runner-up spot.
McNamara, claiming his fourth victory at the Festival, said: "He jumped a little bit to the right, but he never missed a beat.
"It's unbelievable, and it's great to ride a winner at Cheltenham."
Curtis said: "It's very special (to have a Cheltenham winner).
"It wasn't the plan to go out and make the running, but he settled well and we know he jumps and stays.
"It doesn't happen too often (winning at the Festival) and I'm going to enjoy it.
"It's great just to have runners, let alone a winner."
Curtis highlighted Teaforthree's jumping as being one of his major assets.
She said: "He is probably better with cut in the ground, but going four miles you can get away with it.
"He's a brilliant jumper."
When asked about his long-term prospects as a Grand National contender, the Pembrokeshire handler added: "He stays well and jumps well and you've got to have that if you are to be a National horse."
The Irish National at Fairyhouse next month is a possible next port of call for Teaforthree.
Curtis continued: "We always fancied him for the race. You need a little bit of luck, but all he does is stay and jump, which is ideal for four miles.
"It's a massive boost for the yard to have a winner here and hopefully it will attract some new owners.
"AP (McCoy) thought he'd be perfect for the race and he managed to get us the best rider.
"We might look at something like the Irish National if he's all right."
Paul Nicholls, trainer of runner-up Harry The Viking, said: "Will (Biddick) gave him a fantastic ride.
"He was thrown a bit wide turning in, but he stayed on very strongly.
"He might go to Ayr (Scottish National) next month.
"I know he's a novice, but he does have experience point-to-pointing and the aim will be Aintree next year."
Four Commanders' trainer, Mouse Morris, said: "You would be being very critical to say the mistake at the last cost him.
"He's run very well and has just been beaten by two better horses on the day.
"Nina gave him some ride but I don't know if he'll run again this season."