A third fantastic day at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival brought tears of joy to the connections of the magnificent Big Bucks who fought all his rivals off to win a record breaking fourth World Hurdle. By winning he established himself as the greatest staying hurdler the National Hunt has ever seen and a permanent place in its Hall of Legends. Brilliantly ridden by Ruby Walsh, the 9 year old had to fight off a terrifically game challenge from the Irish mare, Voler La Vedette before going past the post with just under two lengths to spare. It was a second win of the week for both trainer, Paul Nicholls and jockey Walsh.
Earlier the packed Prestbury Park had borne witness to a superb chasing display by the Willie Mullins trained, Sir Des Champs, who oozed class when taking apart the field in the Jewson Novice Chase. The win earned him an early quote of 10/1 to win the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup which is where confirmed Mullins he will be aimed next season.
Cape Tribulation won the hugely competitive Pertemps Hurdle final for trainer Malcolm Jefferson and jockey Denis O’Regan with odds of 14/1. The win made up for O’Regan’s bad luck in the ‘Neptune’ on Day Two after he was unseated by Cotton Mill.
The Ryanair Chase had looked like being one of the most memorable of the Festival and it did not disappoint. Riverside Theatre, the 7/2 favourite came home after a searing battle with Albertas Run who had won the race the previous two seasons. It was yet another win for the Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty partnership and it began a disastrous period for the Bookmakers as each of the next three races, including Big Bucks’s win, were all claimed by the favourites. Big Bucks won at 5/6, then came Salut Flo at 9/2 for the David Pipe stable in the Byrne Group Plate and the rout was complete when Sunnyhillboy landed the final race of the day, the ‘Fulke Walwyn/Kim Muir’ for trainer, Jonjo O’Neill at 13/2.
1.30 Jewsons Novice Chase
The Willie Mullins trained Sir Des Champs proved his class when winning this highly competitive Grade 2 with a very authorative display. Never far from the pace, he jumped and travelled supremely seeing off a host of potential dangers on the way round that included the favourite, Peddlers Cross who once again ran poorly despite coming from a stable in great form. Second place, over four lengths behind went to the Martin Keightley trained Champion Court with For Non Stop nine lengths further back in third.
2.05 Pertemps Final (Handicap Hurdle)
As always a cracking race which saw the first four home leave the rest in their wake after jumping the last. Cape Tribulation held on to win for the Malcolm Jefferson stable but he had to survive a superb staying on performance from Catch Me with Tony McCoy at his best on board. Third place went to Cantlow with Houblon Des Obeaux fourth.
2.40 Ryanair Chase
7/2 favourite Riverside Theatre held on grimly to hold off the challenge of another Tony McCoy inspired charge, this time on board Albertas Run, winner of the previous two renewals. But hold on he did, proving himself yet another top prospect for his trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Barry Geraghty. Medermit ran another good race to finish third but there were disappointing runs for fourth placed Captain Chris and more particularly Somersby, who finished well down the field.
3.20 World Hurdle
The Bookmakers were making very positive sounds before the race that the great three time champion, Big Bucks was going to get beat in this attempt for a record breaking fourth victory in the race. They were disappointed and ended up ‘shelling’ out thousands instead as the great 9 year old not only defied them but also his rivals who tried their utmost to upset his rhythm. It was left to the mare, Voler La Vedette to mount the biggest challenge but try as she may, she was not quite up to it, going down by 1¾ lengths but earning her fair share of the plaudits in the process.
4.00 Byrne Group Plate
David Pipe finally got one of his charge’s into the winners enclosure after the heavily gambled on 9/2 favourite, Salut Flo ran away with the race, winning in the end by six lengths from the Cockney Mackem. It was a great performance from the 7 year old as it was only his second race in two years, the last being a disappointing run back in December. Clearly the stable were in the know and his win delivered another huge body blow to the Bookmakers.
4.40 Fulke Walwyn/Kim Muir Challenge Cup
The final race of the day produced yet another blow to the Bookmakers with the Jonjo O’Neill trained, JP McManus owned, Sunnyhillboy comfortably winning this race with odds of 13/2. He finished over four lengths clear of the second, Becauseicouldntsee, with Exmoor Ranger third and The Beat back in fourth place. It was O’Neill’s second win of the week.