/ Racing

Irish runners star on Cheltenham undercard

Updated: Friday, 14 Mar 2014 19:03 | Comments

Daryl Jacob rides Lac Fontana (left) to victory
Daryl Jacob rides Lac Fontana (left) to victory

Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle

Lac Fontana gave Paul Nicholls and Daryl Jacob a belated first winner of the Festival with a thrilling victory in the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Jacob produced Lac Fontana (11-1) with a perfectly-timed run on the nearside rail to collar Arctic Fire up the hill and land the spoils by half a length.

Montbazon, who led over the final flight, was a length back in third with Diakali fourth.

Jacob, who had no luck at all in the Triumph Hurdle on the well-fancied Calipto and was visibly deflated afterwards, as he was when just touched off on Wednesday, said: "It's been a very testing week for us all.

"It's a good team effort from everyone and at the end of the day there can only be one winner. You can only keep looking forward.

"We're all thinking about the guys that are injured, like Jason (Maguire), Bryan (Cooper), now Ruby (Walsh) and of course JP (McNamara) but this is the place we all want to win."

He added of the winner: "He's very, very tough and he kept finding all the way."

Nicholls said: "It's been so frustrating (trying to get a winner during the week). Daryl probably needed that more than anyone really, he was on a real down and that will be just what he wanted.

"I told him to just get out there, put everything behind him and that this will win, you have to be positive.

"I told him he'll stay on up the hill and he gave him a peach.

"He's quite an emotional guy and you need a bit of luck, he'll be a different rider now. That was magic, just what we wanted."

Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup

Tammys Hill got on top close home to claim the CGA Foxhunter Chase.

Held up for most of the race, the Liam Lennon-trained 11-year-old crept into contention under James Smyth from four out as Carsonstown Boy made the pace from the outset.

The long-time leader would not give in without a battle and he kept on for second place, three and a quarter lengths behind the 15-2 winner.

The well-fancied On The Fringe came with a threatening run but could not maintain his bid and finished third, a length and three-quarters away.

 Smyth said: "Fantastic, he jumped brilliant. We've fancied him for three years!"

Lennon said: "It's unbelievable. Totally unreal.

"It's a great achievement for the Smyths. They bred this horse themselves and it's some achievement for James. He's 35 now and in his twilight years.

"I actually won a race on this horse's mother - so she must have been a good mare!

"I finished fourth in this race on a good horse called Joe Blake. I was coming towards the end of my career and probably should have won.

"I think this horse deserves a shot at a good pot now - maybe something like the Irish Grand National."

Conditional Jockeys´ Handicap Hurdle

Don Poli gave Willie Mullins his fourth winner at Cheltenham this week with a clear-cut victory in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle.

The five-year-old, a third winner on the day for owners Gigginstown House Stud, drew away from his main challenger Thomas Crapper up the hill after a prolonged battle.

Mikey Fogarty drove Don Poli (12-1) home by four and a half lengths, with Caid Du Berlais a length and a quarter back in third. Urbain De Sivola ran an incredible race to finish fourth after being left many lengths at the start.

Gigginstown supremo Michael O'Leary said: "I think I've died and gone to heaven, it's amazing.

"He won three miles last time out and I had no plans to come here, but Willie felt it took a stayer to win the race and that's a fantastic performance by Willie, he's a genius trainer.

"Mikey gave him a brilliant ride and I couldn't be happier."

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase 

Handicap king Tony Martin produced another 16-1 rabbit out of the hat to win the closing Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase as Savello was produced late under Russell.

Next Sensation and Claret Cloak appeared set to fight out the finish but Savello powered up the hill with Ned Buntline closing into second.

O'Leary joked: "That shows you how easy it is to have winners at Cheltenham - you wait two years for a winner, then four come along in the space of a few hours.

"It was a brilliant training performance by Tony Martin. He's not had a great week

"I thought we had no chance. Tony's horses had not been running well all week, but this is wonderful. I'm not used to having four winners.”

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