Find out what happened during the second day of the Cheltenham Festival (15 March)…
The Willie Mullins-trained Douvan looked a sure thing ahead of today’s feature race, the Grade One Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, however it was Special Tiara (main picture) who held on gamely to take this year’s honours.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained 10-year-old — one of the oldest in the field — was being ridden by the in-form Noel Fehily. The pair battled up the Cheltenham hill to fend off Colin Tizzard’s Fox Norton into second.
Douvan — who was previously unbeaten — produced some over-bold jumping throughout the 1m 7f race under Ruby Walsh, managing eventual seventh.
“He never did that before. Ruby was gobsmacked by that — Douvan didn’t jump as well as he expected,” explained Willie. “When they jump like that they can injure themselves. I think he probably pulled something, maybe a muscle or ligament.”
Sprinter Sacre on show
The popular former Nicky Henderson-trained gelding looked happy to be back at the home of National Hunt racing, as he was paraded in front of an admiring Cheltenham crowd ahead of the first race today.
The dual Queen Mother Champion Chase victor was retired in November 2016 and, now aged 11, the son of Network looked as good as ever in the sunshine.
A fantastic Cheltenham battle
The finish of the day has to go to the finale of the RSA Novices’ Chase between Nicky Henderson’s two charges, Might Bite and Whisper.
Under Nico de Boinville, Might Bite looked to have it in the bag coming up to the final fence, however, after getting in short, the eight-year-old gelding then proceeded to hang severely right-handed opening the door for his stablemate, Whisper.
Davy Russell made the most of the opportunity given to him and steered the nine-year-old upsides Might Bite for an eventual photo finish, which confirmed Nico’s mount had just held on — by a whisker!
The Champ gets on the leaderboard
The Champion jump jockey, Richard Johnson, opened his account at this year’s Festival. He steered the Nick Williams-trained Flying Tiger to win the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle.
A first Festival triumph
Trainer Ben Pauling celebrated his debut success at the Cheltenham Festival courtesy of the six-year-old Willoughby Court, who took the limelight in the opening race — the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle.
The 14-1 shot, ridden by David Bass, held off the favourite, Harry Fry’s Neon Wolf, in a photo finish.
“This means everything and more — this really is the icing on the cake. He is not an easy horse,” said the Gloucestershire trainer.
Creating Festival history
The Gordon Elliott-trained Cause Of Causes made Cheltenham Festival history today in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. The gelding, ridden by Jamie Codd, became just the fourth horse in Cheltenham’s rich heritage to win three different races in succession at the Festival — emulating Flying Bolt, Bobs Worth and Vautour.
Mark Walsh in hospital
The Irish jockey — who was deputising for the injured Barry Geraghty aboard the JP McManus horses — was taken to Gloucestershire Hospital with suspected concussion after his fall from Consul De Thaix in the opening race. Unfortunately Consul De Thaix had to be put down as a result of his injuries.