Richard Forristal's day 3 race reads
1.30 Grade One JLT Novices' Chase 2m 4f A farcical incident at the start saw Zabana unseat Davy Russell and cost Outlander most of 10 lengths.
Russell had Zabana sideways across Outlander and clearly was in no position to start, so the officials are the ones who must carry the can.
Outlander had got into contention and was on the verge of running a big race when he clipped the fourth-last and came down, as did Garde La Victoire on the inside.
Ruby Walsh initially set out to make the running on Black Hercules, but he didn't have the required pace to sustain it at this trip. He wisely let Bristol De Mai go on, and consequently had enough in the tank to rally up the hill.
L'Ami Serge had swept into the lead at that stage and crossed Black Hercules two-out, but he then shot his bolt. Black Hercules found more to lead after the last and ran out a decisive three-length winner in the end, with Bristol De Mai admirably fighting back to regain second from L'Ami Serge. Three Musketeers ran well to be fourth, with As De Mee outclassed in fifth.
2.10 Pertemps Final (Handicap Hurdle) 3m
If In Doubt has to go down as an unlucky loser in third.
He stumbled and had his run blocked before the last flight, and he was carried wide after it by the three in front of him, but he was beaten only less than a length.
Russell brought Mall Dini through from the rear in characteristically cool fashion. He needed the gaps to come but they did, and they led after the last to collect, veering left in the process.
They were never likely to lose it in the stewards' room given that Mall Dini won going away from the second, and he couldn't be blamed for If In Doubt's earlier misfortune. Mall Dini is consistent but he seemed to thrive on a bit of nice ground here.
Arpege D'Alene ran well from close to the pace in second, likewise the fourth Taglietelle under its big burden from further back, with Our Kaempfer fifth. Rathpatrick came up the stands rail to be sixth.
Flintham set a ferocious gallop that he was never likely to sustain, though to his credit he still led over two out before finally capitulating. Leave At Dawn didn't enjoy the clearest passage held up just off the rail, while Oscar Sam couldn't cope with the increased pace on the ground. Box Office raced at the very rear and never got into it.
2.50 Grade One Ryanair Chase 2m 5f
Vautour produced another performance of sheer majesty here.
He raced in Ruby Walsh's hands over the first few, and was soon tracking the pace. Walsh let him join Village Vic at the top of the hill, they led narrowly four-out and, when given an inch of rein turning in, his nearest pursuer Road To Riches was soon toast. It had been strikingly similar a year earlier in the JLT.
Vautour cruised home six lengths clear of Valseur Lido and, for this analyst, the only pity is that we didn't get to see him do his thing in the Gold Cup, as this was a performance befitting a proper championship race. Maybe next year.
Valseur Lido ran as though he needed further, which is something that his trainer has been strong on. He would patently have been better suited by the Gold Cup trip, but ran a blinder in defeat.
Road To Riches paid for keeping Vautour honest. He was the only horse able to live with him to the home turn, but then got nabbed for second by Valseur Lido. It was another gallant turn by the third and he might well have won without the winner in the race. Al Ferof defied his years to be fourth, having raced just off the pace on the inner, while Gilgamboa kept on well to be fifth, having got outpaced coming to the third-last.
Smashing ran well for a long way, but was always going a gear faster than ideal on the ground and was pulled up after three-out, while Village Vic didn't have the quality at this level to sustain the fractions he set.
Vibrato Valtat hadn't been asked a question when he crashed four-out in the middle of the field.
3.30 Grade One Ryanair World Hurdle 3m
Thistlecrack simply blew his rivals away.
Tom Scudamore settled him in mid-division and brought him wide to challenge, initially taking closer order down the back straight the final time. Two-out, he took over from long-time leader Cole Harden, closely followed by Alpha Des Obeaux.
They went on from there and, when Scudamore gave him his head on the final bend, he put the race to bed very quickly. It might not have been as explosive as Vautour but it was no less definitive. Thistlecrack stretched seven lengths clear of Alpha Des Obeaux and is undoubtedly a horse of immense talent.
Alpha Des Obeaux finishes second a lot but you couldn't fault him. He has the scope to be better over fences, but he might again run into Thistlecrack at that job.
Remarkably, old Bobs Worth plugged away for third, but the runner-up was 22 lengths superior. Cole Harden lost third after the last and last year's triumph looks to have been a peak for him. Martello Tower looked as though he might get into it but his effort petered out.
4.10 Grade Three Brown
Advisory & Merriebelle
Stable Handicap Chase 2m 5f
Empire Of Dirt was brought wide travelling supremely well down the hill. He cruised into the lead around the bend, then got close to two-out.
He surrendered the lead briefly to Kings Palace, but pinged the last and was in front again. At that stage, he veered a little left and right, but he was striding clear at that stage and won with real authority by four lengths.
Empire Of Dirt had been hampered by Stilletto's fall at the third so it was a fine performance.
Kings Palace eventually wilted into third, with Tango De Juilley staying on well to be second. He had raced quite handily and responded gamely for pressure.
Kings Palace was sent to press the pace down the back the final time, a tactic that didn't work like it has done in the past.
Full Shift raced behind the leading bunch and kept going well to be fourth, while Darna fell at the first down the back the final time and brought down Bear's Affair. Fingal Bay was badly impeded and pulled up.
Sew On Target, as has been the case with many this week, set a strong gallop that he was unable to sustain. Niceonefrankie suffered a fatal fall four-out having tracked him, while Little Jon was hampered badly there before falling at the next. Baily Green didn't get up the hill after challenging down the hill, but Ballycasey came through from the rear to finish nicely in fifth.
4.50 Grade Two Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle 2m
This was every bit as straightforward as expected. There simply doesn't appear to be enough depth of talent for these mares' races at the Festival, and Limini only needed to get a run to win.
Walsh had settled her just off the pace, and she wasn't entirely fluent at every hurdle. However, Walsh got the split when they turned in, and he just had to shake the reins at her to lead before the last.
Limini powered up the hill to beat Dusky Legend by four-and-a-half lengths, with Bloody Mary another couple back in third. She had also raced just behind the leaders and will continue to improve, while Robins Reef kept on to deny Bantam fourth.
5.30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase 3m 2f
Causes Of Causes looked like a lost cause for most of the race but swept into contention on the outside around the home bend.
It was similar to the manner in which he won the four-miler last year, this time storming home by 12 lengths after racing at the very rear of a well-stretched field. Both horse and jockey JJ Codd excelled themselves once again.
A Good Skin, Silvergrove and Knock House filled the minor places, but it was a case of the winner first and the rest nowhere. Silvergrove vied for the lead at times so it was a fair turn from him to finish third.
David Pipe's Amigo had assumed the lead down the hill but then tired into fifth, and Splash Of Ginge, which made the early running, paid for those exertions by tailing off.
The Job Is Right unseated its rider at the first fence down the back the final time, while Doctor Harper was beaten when doing the same two-out. Sambremont made mistakes and never got into contention.