Jonjo O'Neill has his customary Festival winner
RICHIE McLERNON may have missed out narrowly on a Grand National victory in the spring but he won a Cheltenham Festival race for the second year in a row when Holywell triumphed in the Pertemps Final on Thursday.
McLernon, whose mount Sunnyhillboy was agonisingly caught in the final strides by Neptune Collonges at Aintree, had posted his first-ever Festival success aboard Alfie Sherrin in the 2012 JLT Handicap Chase.
And again it was boss at Jackdaws Castle in Gloucestershire, Jonjo O’Neill, who supplied his winner.
"I thought he was there a bit early at the top of the hill," admitted Jonjo. "I was thinking it was a long way home from there, but Richie kept him going.
"They did not go mad, it was a good and sensible ride.
With four-times winner of the featured Ladbrokes World Hurdle, Big Buck’s, absent through injury, there had to be a new champion in the staying hurdle division and there was a worthy successor in the Irish-trained Solwhit.
He, too, has had his training troubles, having been sidelined for almost two years, before returning to action on New Year’s Eve.
Jockey Paul Carberry guided Solwhit to victory with a perfectly-timed run past Celestial Halo, who is from the same stable and in the same ownership as Big Buck’s.
The afternoon ended with another success for the local Twiston-Davies when Same Difference, in the hands of inexperienced amateur Ryan Hatch, won the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase at 16-1.