Tuesday 19 March 2019

Michael Verney's day 2 read

Nico de Boinville celebrates on Altior after winning the Champion Chase for the second year in a row at Cheltenham yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Nico de Boinville celebrates on Altior after winning the Champion Chase for the second year in a row at Cheltenham yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney


They were safely under way as the customary roar went up to signify the start of the opener with Noel Fehily leading them out on Seddon, closely followed by Sean Flanagan on Valdieu.

Several of the leading fancies were held up in behind but Jack Kennedy was never really travelling smoothly on favourite Battleoverdoyen as he went on and off the bridle.

Easy Game was the gamble of the race but never landed a blow under Ruby Walsh and the complexion changed radically two from home when Martin Brassil's City Island and Nicky Henderson's Champ cruised into the straight.

Mark Walsh briefly didn't have much room before jumping the second last but he thrived on the challenge of the Hill to edge Champ by two lengths, with Bright Forecast a similar distance back in third.


This was a vintage renewal with the three market principals pulling well clear to produce a thrilling finish.

The Worlds End - eventually pulled up lame before two out - was sent to the front from the off but Richard Johnson wasted little to go from last to first on Drinks Interval - also pulled up - and set the tempo.

Philip Kirby's Top Ville Ben crashed out at the sixth while Nicky Henderson's second-string On The Blind Side was never travelling with any zest.

Delta Work (15/8 favourite) was always handy under Davy Russell and loomed large turning for home with Gordon Elliott's charge looking to be travelling the best.

Coming off a slow gallop, it turned into a dash to the finish with second favourite Santini and third favourite Topofthegame making their presence felt as the big three jumped the last together.

It was Paul Nicholls' Topofthegame that proved best to shed his maiden tag over fences in style with exciting young jockey Harry Cobden doing the necessary to hold off Santini by three parts of a length, with Delta Work a further two lengths back.


The annual 25-runner cavalry charge didn't disappoint in terms of drama and it all came in the closing stages.

Wicklow Brave, the 2015 County Hurdle winner, was steered patiently by Patrick Mullins at the tail of the field but swung into the lead at the last.

The 10-year-old moved up confidently and looked the most likeliest winner - several came with a chance at the last - when pushing ahead only to be nabbed in the shadow of the post by William Henry and Nico de Boinville.

Having undergone a wind operation since last seen, Henderson's nine-year-old powered home from an unpromising position off the final bend - he was eighth jumping the last - to win on the line in a thrilling finale, with Festival regular Ballyandy back in third and Brio Conti fourth.


Altior's date with destiny seemed to going along scripted lines as Nico de Boinville tracked the front-running Saint Calvados off a searching gallop.

A blunder at the water jump (the seventh) set the cat among the pigeons, however, and for the second successive year it looked like his crown may be slipping away with two fences to jump.

Altior and De Boinville were headed at the last by the strong-travelling Sceau Royal but the 4/11 favourite was soon sent back to the front.

The gauntlet was then thrown down to him by Politologue but as he has done every time at the Festival, Altior dug deep and asserted in customary style with the finish line approaching.

Altior had just under two lengths to spare from Politologue with Sceau Royal a similar distance back in third and last year's runner-up Min never a factor in fifth having struggled to settle early on.


The build-up was all about Tiger Roll's pursuit of a fourth Festival victory and it was never in any doubt as he travelled with confidence throughout under regular pilot Keith Donoghue.

Always handy behind long-time leader Kingswell Theatre, Donoghue never had to move a muscle on Tiger Roll when easing into second at the water jump (22nd of 32 obstacles) and he went to the front five out.

The loveable nine-year-old drew clear before two out, much to the satisfaction of the near 60,000 crowd, and then cruised home to a 22-length victory without Donoghue having to use his whip.

Josies Orders was a remote second under Mark Walsh with French raider Urgent De Gregaine hot on his heels in third, but there was only ever one horse in it.


The well-supported favourite Band Of Outlaws was slightly squeezed up early on as Torpillo - which faded into 15th - set a frantic gallop.

The first three home were all held up with Band Of Outlaws travelling best when mounting his challenge under JJ Slevin before being squeezed for space again turning in.

That didn't deter his progress, however, and Joseph O'Brien's charge was soon switched and on level terms again before jumping the last in tandem with Coko Beach.

There was only one winner when the pair landed though as Slevin sent his mount on to lead home an Irish 1-2-3 ahead of Coko Beach and Mullins' Ciel De Neige.


Envoi Allen  was backed as if defeat was out of the question and while he got the job done to the delight of favourite backers, it looked like he may be caught by Blue Sari in a thrilling finish before holding on resolutely by three parts of a length.

Jamie Codd was seen to good effect once more as he hit the front with three furlongs to travel and took the sting out of many of his rivals.

Barry Geraghty made a strong challenge in the final furlong on Mullins' Blue Sari but Codd always had a little bit extra up his sleeve to prevail, while Philip Hobbs' Thyme Hill was next best in third.

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