FESTIVAL DAY THREE: More Than That helps Jonjo to his best-ever Festival
JONJO O’NEILL completed his equal-best Cheltenham Festival haul with three wins when the exciting six-year-old More Than That strained every muscle to maintain his unbeaten record in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday.
Owner JP McManus had seen his colours bring home a one-two in the Champion Hurdle on the opening day and in the stayers’ championship it was a one-three as More Than That withstood the challenge of the Irish-trained favourite Annie Power, with McManus’s At Fishers Cross bringing up third.
But there was disappointment for one key member of O’Neill’s Temple Guiting team, 18-time champion jockey AP McCoy.
Having chosen the wrong one on Tuesday in runner-up My Tent Or Yours, who followed home Jezki, McCoy found history repeating itself in the World Hurdle. He could have ridden More Than That but opted instead for At Fishers Cross, on whom he had won at the Festival in 2013 And for the second time in a week it was Barry Geraghty who benefited by riding a McCoy ‘reject’.
Owner JP McManus added: "AP had a lot of faith in At Fishers Cross – the horse had never let him down. He thought a lot of More Of That but he thought another year wouldn't do him any harm. Jonjo was surprised that he didn't pick him but somebody was going to be disappointed and it is Barry's day.”
There were also emotional scenes after the race when it was announced by trainer Paul Nicholls that his Big Buck’s was to be retired after coming home fifth.
Big Buck’s had won this race four times in a row between 2009 and 2012, but after having a year off with injury he has returned with two slightly below par displays and at 11 years of age he has run his last race.
Jonjo had earlier triumphed in the JLT Novices’ Chase which was dominated by local stables O’Neill’s Taquin De Seuil, McCoy’s only winner all week, finished first ahead of Alan King’s Uxizandre with the course specialist from the Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard, Double Ross, back in third.
The other Group One race on the card, the Ryanair Chase, went to Dynaste who was given a superbly-timed ride by Tom Scudamore having been the beaten favourite in the same race 12 months ago.