Big upset among Cheltenham Festival favourites

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  • Both the big odds-on favourites for the championship races were beaten today on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival.

    Voy Por Ustedes, ridden by H&H columnist Robert Thornton, was outgunned by Imperial Commander in the Ryanair Chase, while the French-trained Kasbah Bliss went down to Big Buck’s in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

    4-5 shot Voy Por Ustedes, winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase two years ago, hit the fourth-last fence hard. The mistake, which left Thornton reeling, probably cost him the race as he lost momentum and couldn’t match the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Imperial Commander.

    “That wasn’t like him at all,” said Thornton after the race.

    Kasbah Bliss raced wide throughout the World Hurdle and looked to be cruising until encountering Cheltenham’s uphill finishing straight, when Big Buck’s and the Nicky Henderson-trained Punchestowns swept ahead. He finished fourth. Big Buck’s, a fifth winner for Ruby Walsh this week, ground out a 11/2-length victory from Punchestowns and Barry Geraghty.

    It was trainer Paul Nicholls’ second winner of the day, after the grey Chapoturgeon flew home in the Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase with Timmy Murphy hardly breaking sweat in the saddle.

    Venetia Williams also pulled off two training successes — Kayf Aramis in the Pertemps Final and Something Wells in the Freddie Williams Festival Plate.

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