Shadow cast over Cheltenham Festival by injuries to rider JT McNamara
8:12am Monday 18th March 2013 in Sport
BOBS WORTH ran out a worthy winner of the Betfred Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival on Friday, but a long shadow was cast over the final day of the meeting by the potentially life-changing injuries to popular Irish jockey JT McNamara.
The 37-year-old amateur rider, underwent lengthy surgery at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol after breaking two vertebrae in his neck in a fall from the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Galaxy Rock in the Kim Muir Chase on Thursday. He was still in an induced coma at the start of this week Barry Geraghty, jockey on 11-4 favourite Bobs Worth, admitted the success in front of 67,000 racegoers was bittersweet.
“I just wish it were a happier day, because we are all upset about John Thomas,” said Geraghty.
Nicky Henderson's Bobs Worth proved a brave winner, battling back after looking beaten at the top of the hill to collar runner-up Sir Des Champs and his third-placed stable companion Long Run.
Two emerging stars appeared on the final afternoon – one equine, one human.
Our Conor was a scintillating 15-length winner of the JCB Triumph Hurdle and swiftly moved to the head of next year’s Champion Hurdle ante-post market.
He was ridden with supreme confidence by young Irish jockey Bryan Cooper, who sealed a famous double in the next race, the Vincent O’Brien Hurdle, on Ted Veale.
Fears that Nigel Twiston-Davies’ local team were under the weather had proved unfounded and he was only denied a third winner during the week’s festivities when the Tony McCoy-ridden At Fishers Cross came to beat African Gold on the run-in of the Albert Bartlett Hurdle.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls, whose Silviniaco Conti had tumbled at the third last in the Gold Cup when looking a potential winner, eventually posted his first victory of the meeting when Salubrious lifted the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle.
There was tear-jerking finale to the CGA Foxhunter Chase, however. Eighteen-year-old Jane Mangan was three lengths clear on Oscar Delta halfway up the run-in when her mount jinked and unshipped the hapless rider, presenting the race to Salsify, last year’s winner.
The Festival’s great rivalry between British and Irish stables was nicely poised at 13-13 going into the final race of the four-day extravaganza.
And it was the raiders who earned the bragging rights when the Tony Mullins-trained Alderwood triumped in the Johnnie Henderson Grand Annual Chase to give 17-time champion jockey Tony McCoy his second winner of the meeting.