He was second to Sprinter Sacre here last year, but this time Cue Card got his own place in the sun. He took the Ryanair Chase by a cool nine lengths, comfortably seeing off favourite First Lieutenant.
The King’s Theatre gelding is trained in Dorset by Colin Tizzard and ridden by his son Joe.
“He’s the best horse I’ve ever had,” said an elated Tizzard. “There is a lot of pressure when you have these really nice horses and he did everything today we thought he would. They went a true old gallop and he proved he can stay now. It was a beautiful ride from Joe.”
Joe hunts with the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale, and another man whose immense skills in the saddle where honed on the hunting field won the day’s other big race.
Paul Carberry, whose exploits with the Ward Union Staghounds are legendary, was ice-cool on Solwhit to win the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
It was nine-year-old Solwhit’s first attempt at the three-mile trip and, after Celestial Halo (second) fluffed the last, he stayed on strongly to win by two and a half lengths for trainer Charles Byrnes.
The World Hurdle was Solwhit’s seventh Grade One success, but only his third run in two years.
“He developed a bit of heat in a leg, and though we tried to get him back for last season we weren’t happy with him, so we eased off and left in another year. We never lost faith in him,” said Byrnes.
The next Ruby Walsh?
Irish trainer Tony Martin paid 20-year-old Bryan Cooper a huge compliment after the pair won the opening race, the Jewson Novices’ Chase, with Benefficient.
“Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty and Tony McCoy are out on their own, but this young fellow is on the way up. He will be there when the others are long gone and retired. He is an excellent rider and the next Ruby Walsh,” said Martin.
Benefficient started at 20-1, but that was dwarfed by Byrne Group Plate winner Carrickboy’s starting price of 50-1. He took the highly competitive handicap for Venetia Williams and Liam Treadwell – who also won the Grand National with 100-1 shot Mon Mome in 2009.
It was a day for outsiders – 25-1 Holywell came home in front in the Pertemps Final, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by Richie McLernon.
And in the amateur Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup, 16-1 Same Difference just got the nod in the photo-finish over Super Duty. Same Difference was a second winner of the week for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, this time ridden by Ryan Hatch. Super Duty’s trainer Donald McCain has been out of luck so far this Festival.
The Glenfarclas Cross-Country seemed destined never to happen at this year’s Festival. Delayed from Tuesday because of frozen ground, it went off a further 40min late – after a false start – as top Irish amateur JP McNamara was airlifted off the course following a bad fall.
But eventually the Peter Maher-trained Big Shu won under Barry Cash after H&H columnist Jacqueline Coward and Wedger Pardy led for the majority of the race.