Following the victories of the favourites in the first two races, Teaforthree in the opener for trainer Rebecca Curtis and the impressive Nicky Henderson trained Simonsig in the Jewsons Novice Hurdle the shock results that the bookmakers needed duly arrived.
The first one came in the RSA Chase when hot favourite Grands Crus ran well below par and failed to place behind winner, Bobs Worth who provided Henderson and Geraghty with their second win of the day. Then incredibly 4/5 odds on favourite Sizing Europe failed under controversial circumstances to get home in the Champion Chase with victory going to Finian’s Rainbow, yet again trained by Henderson and ridden Geraghty.
This victory gave Henderson and jockey Barry Geraghty a hat trick on the day putting them both well clear in the top trainer and jockey tables at the meeting. Donald McCain scored for a second day running when his Son Of Flicka landed a huge gamble to win the Coral Cup, before Henderson struck again in the penultimate race of the day, the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle with 40/1 shot Une Artiste. This win gave the trainer his 44th Cheltenham Festival victory, making him the most successful trainer ever at the Cheltenham Festival. The final race of the day the Champion Bumper was won by Champagne Fever for Willie Mullins.
Henderson now has trained five winners over the first two days of the Festival and is three clear from his nearest challengers, Donald McCain and Willie Mullins. Barry Geraghty, with four wins leads the jockey table and interestingly all Geraghty’s wins have been in Grade 1 races.
1.30 Diamond Jubilee NH Chase
It was turn of the Amateur riders to take center stage in what turned out to be a cracking race which was won by the 5/1 favourite, Teaforthree, trained by Rebecca Curtis and ridden by top amateur JT McNamara. He had too much in the tank for Harry The Viking who was second with Four Commanders in third.
2.05 Neptune Investment Management Novice Hurdle
Nicky Henderson’s Simonsig put in an awesome display of hurdling and romped home like a true future champion, whether he stays hurdling or turns to chasing. The win provided Henderson his 41st winner at the Festival, a new record and put him and jockey Barry Geraghty on top of this year’s trainer and jockey table.
2.40 RSA Chase
Hot favourite Grands Crus rise to the top of the ratings came to an abrupt halt when he failed to place. Bobs Worth once again for the Henderson and Geraghty partnership came out on top and earned himself a quote of 5/1 to win the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Second was the game First Lieutenant from the Mouse Morris stable in Ireland with fellow Irish raider, Call The Police third.
3.20 Queen Mother Champion Chase
Finian’s Rainbow made it three on the day for both Henderson and Geraghty with a shock win over defending champion Sizing Europe. It was a somewhat controversial win as the final fence was placed out of bounds after an earlier injury to jockey Richard Johnson whichseemed to confuse Sizing Europe. He had no choice but to come away from the rail and then of course lost the opportunity to jump the last that would have given him the advantage for the run up the hill. Nonetheless, Finian’s Rainbow finished the stronger and claimed the race, giving Henderson his first Champion Chase victory since Remittance Man in 1992.
4.00 Coral Cup
A race which saw one of the biggest gambles ever known at the Festival come to fruition when Son Of Flicka, backed in from 66/1 to 16/1 came home in great style for a second win of the week for trainer, Donald McCain and jockey, Jason Maguire. In second was the unlucky Get me out Of Here who has now finished second three times at the Festival, while third was Veiled with Silverhand fourth.
4.40 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Inevitably it was Nicky Henderson again who saddled the winner, this time it was his second stringer in the race, Une Artiste who was a massive 40/1 shot. However it was not Barry Geraghty on board on this occasion, but claimer Jeremiah McGrath who rode the juvenile mare with great panache coming with a late run to overhaul long time leader Kazlian, who could only manage fourth place. Second spot went to Ediyme with the 3/1 favourite, Vendor in third. 5.15 Champion Bumper
5.15 Champion Bumper
Top Irish trainer, Willie Mullins shattered the Cheltenham Festival hopes of little known Down Royal trainer, John Ferguson and his charge New Year’s Eve when Champagne Fever led from start to finish to land this very tough Bumper to give Mullins his second win of the Festival. New Years Eve fought grimly until the end but was just held by a very tenacious winner with Pique Sous, also trained by Mullins finishing third.