TEA BAGS FESTIVAL OPENER
Teaforthree got day two of the Cheltenham Festival off to a winning start for punters.
The 5/1 favourite was given a gem of a ride from the front by JT McNamara in the four-mile event, leading at an even pace from the outset and held plenty in reserve for the business end.
Giving trainer Rebecca Curtis her first winner at the festival, Teaforthree rallied when Four Commanders took a slight advantage at the second last.
The pair were still locked together at the last with Harry The Viking and Our Victoria breathing down their necks.
However, McNamara had judged it to perfection on Teaforthree, who pulled out more on the run-in to win by two lengths from the staying-on Harry The Viking (7/1), with Four Commanders (10/1) holding on to third place in a race where all the principles were prominent throughout.
"It's very special," said Curtis. "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.
"He is probably better with cut in the ground, but going four miles you can get away with it. He's a brilliant jumper."
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."