Stage Star jumped his rivals into submission in the Turners Novices’ Chase to end Paul Nicholls’ three-year drought at the Cheltenham Festival.
The champion trainer had drawn a blank at the big meeting since Politologue won the Champion Chase in 2020, but it proved well worth the wait as Stage Star backed up his smart form this season to produce an excellent round of jumping and galloping.
An all-the-way winner in handicap company on Festival Trials day and a Grade One winner as a novice hurdler, he repeated the dose when it really mattered, moving back into top company with aplomb.
Sent immediately to the front by Harry Cobden, the 15-2 shot traded blows with Laura Morgan’s Notlongtilmay throughout, with the duo the only ones left in the mix after the last and the Ditcheat inmate pulling out more for a three-and-a-quarter-length success.
Odds-on favourite Mighty Potter travelled well for the majority, as did Willie Mullins’ Appreciate It, but both failed to pick up sufficiently at the business end, with the celebrations belonging to Nicholls, who took his Cheltenham tally to 47, and his jockey Cobden – himself ending a long four-year stay on the Festival cold list.
“It’s been a tough week so far, but it’s a tough place,” said Nicholls.
“We were a little bit unlucky yesterday with a couple, but that was brilliant. Different track, slightly better ground, it was always going to suit us. I said to Harry today ‘be positive, bowl along in front and ride him like the best horse in the race’. He gave him a peach of a ride there.”
It was a case of mission complete in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle as Good Time Jonny stormed to Cheltenham Festival success.
Trained to perfection by Tony Martin, he qualified for the big race by finishing third to Maxxum at Leopardstown over Christmas, before tuning-up for his Prestbury Park assignment over an inadequate two miles at the Dublin Racing Festival.
The money had been coming for the eight-year-old building up to the meeting and he was sent off at 9-1 as the tapes went up.
Given a brave steer by Liam McKenna up the inner, Good Time Jonny was out the back as the field headed for home. But his young rider held his nerve to pounce late and deliver his mount with precision, returning a three-and-a-quarter-length winning verdict.
It was a fitting reappearance in the Festival winner’s enclosure for Martin, who has proved synonymous with handicap success in the past and was securing his seventh success at the four-day showpiece.