FESTIVAL DAY TWO: Near-misses for the locals but Sire De Grugy gets it spot on
WEDNESDAY was an afternoon of what might have beens for local horses at the Cheltenham Festival with a series of near-misses, some of them frustratingly close.
Jonjo O’Neill’s Get Me Out Of Here (Coral Cup), Martin Keighley’s Any Currency (Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase) and Alan King’s Smad Place (RSA Chase) were all beaten in photo finishes.
Get Me Out Of Here and AP McCoy looked to have the leader Whisper covered when waiting in his slipstream at the final flight, but once again this horse had to settle for second place at the Festival.
"That's the fourth time he's been second here, but he's a smashing horse," said Jonjo.
"We thought everything was right for him today, the ground, the trip and the sun had come out. He loves this place and he loves the good ground. AP has given him a great ride but it's just frustrating he's been beaten again as he really deserves a victory here.”
Whisper was the only winner of the week from the most prolific Cheltenham Festival winning trainer of modern times, Nicky Henderson. He was ridden by conditional jockey Nico de Boinville and owned by Dai Walters, the man behind Ffos Las racecourse in Wales.
Any Currency chased Balthazar King throughout the closing stages of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase and despite coming under pressure some way from home ran on bravely all the way to the line, but the Philip Hobbs runner hung on to repeat his win of 2012.
"I'm gutted," said Keighley, who has yet to train a Festival winner. "It was a great run and he loves it around here. Ian (Popham) gave the horse a fantastic ride and they deserve to win a good race. The horse is a relentless stayer, he's a bit of a monkey but the course suits him."
King’s gallant grey Smad Place, who was made joint favourite, matched O’Faolains Boy stride for stride over the last two fences, only to lose out in the final yards.
"I'd have love to have won but ours ran a blinder and I've no excuses, we were beaten by a better one," said King.
Slad trainer Tom George’s decision to run his outsider Module in the big race of the day, the Betvictor Queen Mother Champion Chase, was justified when he picked up a hefty £37,000 third prize in the hands of jockey Paddy Brennan.
But there was no denying the superiority of the winner Sire De Grugy who bounded away up the hill for the racing family Moore – trainer Gary and his jockey-son Jamie, who was gaining his maiden Festival win.
It was also a notable triumph for owner Steve Preston as this his first racehorse was bought partly with the proceeds of a family whip round on his 50th birthday. Preston and his friends came up with the rest and Sire De Grugy has now won 13 races and more than £540,000 in prize money.
Tom George said of 20-1 chance Module: "I'm thrilled with him. He was outpaced a bit and Paddy (Brennan) said he needs further than two miles, but I was pleased to see him galloping right to the line. He was the least experienced horse in the race and has a great future.”
Chipping Norton-based Charlie Longsdon saddled Killala Quay to run an honourable race in fourth behind perhaps the most impressive winner of the week, the Willie Mullins-trained Faugheen, in the Neptune Investment Hurdle.
The runner-up was Ballyalton, bought as a present by golfer Lee Westwood for his dad John.
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