Barry Geraghty held his nerve and produced favourite Bobs Worth with a perfectly-timed run from the final fence to win the most important steeplechase of the season, the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
In the end Geraghty – who bought Bobs Worth as a yearling and sold him to his trainer, Nicky Henderson, as a four-year-old – had seven lengths in hand over second-placed Sir Des Champs.
“He struggled on the soft ground for most of the way,” said Geraghty. “After a mile I knew he wasn’t happy so I started trying to conserve his energy and save a bit. I thought I was beaten with five or six to jump but he ran on down the hill and from there I just held him together.”
Henderson and Geraghty also took Wednesday’s big race, the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Geraghty paid tribute to his friend JT McNamara, who suffered a serious neck injury at Cheltenham yesterday.
“Even though this is one of the biggest days of my career, all I could think about was John Thomas. He’s a friend of ours and I hope and pray he will be ok,” said Geraghty.
Long Run, ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen, led for most of the race but faded in the final stages to finish third. Fourth was The Giant Bolster, and Cape Tribulation was fifth. The much-fancied Silviniaco Conti fell with Ruby Walsh three fences from home when travelling well.
Treble for Bryan Cooper
Unknown outside Ireland at the beginning of the week, 20-year-old Bryan Cooper has thrust himself into the limelight with three Festival winners. After Thursday’s success on Benefficient, he followed up with a double on Friday courtesy of Our Conor in the JCB Triumph Hurdle and then Ted Veale in the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle.
Tony Martin, who trained Ted Veale and Benefficient, said: “Bryan is riding with supreme confidence at the moment. We have been using him for a while and you could always see the potential in him as a rider. He’s a young fellow on the way up and I hope to be able to secure his services for a while.”
McCoy off the mark
After drawing a blank on the first three days, champion jockey AP McCoy finally got his first winner of the meeting when At Fishers Cross stormed home in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
Trained in Wales by Rebecca Curtis, the Oscar six-year-old beat African Gold by four and a half lengths.
McCoy followed up in the last race of the meeting, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup, when Alderwood, trained by Thomas Mullins, saw off Kid Cassidy. Both horses are owned by McCoy’s principal patron JP McManus.
Alderwood, 3-1 favourite, was second in the race last year.
And Paul Nicholls also got a winner on the board at last in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle. His nephew Harry Derham steered Salubrious to victory
Colman Sweeney and Salsify took the CGA Foxhunter for the second year running, but somewhat by default. Jane Mangan was leading on Oscar Delta, trained by her father, Grand National-winning trainer Jimmy, when she fell off inside the final furlong.
Jane, 19, appeared to unbalance Oscar Delta when she pulled her whip through into her other hand, and the horse ran into one of the posts holding up the string used to cordon off the left-handed turn after the final fence once the runners are in the last stages of a race. The horse was baulked and just tipped the unfortunate Jane off over his shoulder, leaving the race to Salsify and Sweeney.
Festival honours went narrowly to Ireland, with 14 winners to Britain’s 13.
Don’t miss next week’s H&H magazine for a full report on all the action from the Cheltenham Festival, on sale Thursday 21 March