When Inglis Drever first ran at Cheltenham, Master Minded wasn’t even a year old. But today, four years later, they were the stars of a gargantuam 10-race card at the Cheltenham Festival, more than making amends for the disappointment of Wednesday’s abandonment.
The old warrior, Inglis Drever, thrashed out a tight victory over the French-trained Kasbah Bliss to become the first horse to win three Ladbrokes World Hurdles (formerly the Stayers’ Hurdle) for trainer Howard Johnson, owner Graham Wylie and jockey Denis O’Regan. The 11-8 favourite, who won this race in 2005 and 2007, may return once more to defend his crown in 2009.
“We might come back for one more next year but he won’t have a lot more races,” said Howard Johnson.
And the new kid, Master Minded, put up a simply awesome performance to sweep aside a good field in the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase. Officially a five-year-old, but with an April foaling date, this precocious French import didn’t touch a twig on his way to a 19-length win over last year’s champions, Voy Por Ustedes and H&H columnist Chocolate Thornton. Whatever happens to Kauto Star tomorrow, owner Clive Smith must surely be the luckiest man in racing to have two such remarkable horses.
Trainer Paul Nicholls said: “I’m gobsmacked. I know he’s been improving at home. He’s obviously a hugely talented horse, just incredible.”
AP McCoy and Jonjo O’Neill got off the mark for the week when Alberta’s Run took the Royal & SunAlliance Chase comfortably from Roll Along, and that old Cheltenham stalwart, 10-year-old Our Vic, was a bold, front-running winner of the Ryanair Chase for Timmy Murphy and David Pipe.
And the year-older Mister McGoldrick caught punters napping when he galloped to a confident victory in the Racing Post Plate at 66-1. It was trainer Sue Smith and jockey Dominic Elsworth’s first Cheltenham Festival winner.