Cheltenham Festival day three: Welsh trainer wins with 50/1 shot, while an old favourite makes a classy comeback in thrilling finish

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  • Welsh trainer Rebecca Curtis scored her first Cheltenham Festival success since 2015 today (Thursday, 12 March) when 50/1 chance Lisnagar Oscar stormed home in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle, 14 weeks after the handler gave birth to her daughter.

    Ridden by Adam Wedge, for whom it was a first Festival win, the seven-year-old gelding beat 20/1 shot Ronald Pump by two lengths, with 33/1 Bacardys in third.

    “He ran a blinder on his last run and I am not sure whatever happened to him at the beginning of the season,” said Rebecca. “We did find a few ulcers and things, so we treated him for that and he was so well at home. I thought 50/1 was a massive price.

    “Adam is a solid jockey — I am delighted for him to get his first Festival winner, he has given the horse a brilliant ride. It’s a time when I need this win because I’m trying to rebuild the yard. I’ve had four winners here before, but it’s been five years, so it’s just great to win another one.”

    A deserved victory

    The Willie Mullins-trained Min enjoyed a deserved victory in the Grade One Ryanair Chase. Under Paul Townend, the nine-year-old was all-out to secure a neck success in the £350,000 contest, seeing off the gallant Saint Calvados. The 7/4 favourite A Plus Tard was 1½ lengths in third.

    On his fourth appearance at the Festival, this was Min’s first success at the meeting — he is now a six-time Grade One winner and has also finished runner-up in six Grade One contests.

    “It was a good performance from Min and he likes to race from the front,” said Willie. “We got the tactics wrong on him last year [finished fifth in the Champion Chase] and it didn’t work out. We changed things up this year and learnt our lesson — here he is now back at the top table. Min threw a wonderful leap in at the last and it was a great effort.”

    Rallying gamely

    British trainer Harry Whittington registered his first ever winner at the Festival following the victory of the well-supported Simply The Betts in the £110,000 Grade Three Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate.

    Ridden by Gavin Sheehan, the seven-year-old son of Arcadio made a mistake at the final fence, but rallied gamely under pressure to forge clear in the closing stages, beating the Kerry Lee-trained Happy Diva.

    Whittington, along with owners Kate and Andrew Brooks, had narrowly been denied the Ryanair Chase earlier in the day, with Saint Calvados suffering a neck defeat to Min — so connections were delighted to record a winner at the Festival.

    “It’s about everyone else,” said Harry. “His owners love the game and put so much into it, I am so thrilled for them. We have had five goes this week and inched closer and closer, and got there.

    “All my team have given everything this winter and eventer Laura Collett has done an amazing job with this horse’s jumping. It’s a great team effort and I am so proud of everyone.”

    A classy comeback

    Samcro rediscovered his winning ways with a gutsy performance in the £150,000 Grade One Marsh Novices’ Chase.

    Trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Davy Russell, the eight-year-old son of Germany had undergone wind surgery since his last start in December. His handler credited a new stable, which allows him to “live outside” at Gordon’s yard in Co. Meath, Ireland.

    This performance was a culmination of months of hard work by Gordon and his team as he gamely saw off the gallant Melon by a nose in a thrilling finish, while dual Cheltenham Festival hero Faugheen was a length back in third.

    “Samcro is the forgotten horse, he is one the favourites in the yard and we love him,” said Gordon. “Samcro was in the doldrums for a while and had lost his way, so it means a lot to get him back to win another Grade One at Cheltenham.”

    The Tim Vaughan-trained Copper Gone West was fatally injured during the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle, won by the Gordon Elliott-trained Sire Du Berlais.

    Don’t miss our full report from the Cheltenham Festival in the 19 March issue of Horse & Hound.

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