Gordon Elliott secured his first Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle (3m) at Cheltenham on Thursday yet not with the runner most people expected as 33-1 shot Sire Du Berlais landed the spoils under Mark Walsh, with stable companion and favourite Teahupoo crossing the line in third.
Sandwiching the two Elliott runners was Dashel Drasher for the Jeremy Scott stable. Approaching the final flight, it looked as though the popular ten-year-old, sent off at 40-1, was going to cause an even bigger upset until Sire Du Berlais kicked into overdrive and overhauled the domestic runner on the run-in.
The stewards held an inquiry into the finishing positions of the second and third and reversed the placings, giving Elliott a famous 1-2 in day three’s headline contest.
Sire Du Berlais was recording his third triumph at the Festival, having landed the Pertemps Final in 2019 and 2020.
It was also a remarkable result for winning jockey Walsh, riding for boss JP McManus, who fractured vertebrae in his neck following a heavy fall at the Dublin Racing Festival in February.
Elliott said: “After a hurdle or two I knew we were in a good rhythm. Of course, it is a surprise, but Sire Du Berlais can do that; he’s either first or last, but he’s well able, anyway. In fairness to him, he’s very tough.
“Mark [Walsh] gave him a brilliant ride. It’s great to win the race – obviously we were short-headed in a Grade 1 yesterday [with Gerri Colombe], so it’s great to win. It’s a great game here. We love training horses and we love coming here. It’s brilliant.
“We couldn’t get him qualified for the Pertemps Final, but anyway, it worked out well. It didn’t work out for us, with ground one day, and his handicap, he got a good mark off the handicapper, so we said we’d come here.
“To be honest, he doesn’t do anything too exciting – he minds himself, which is why he is still going at his age . I didn’t even think about winning this with him – I thought I was going to win it with the other horse!”
The opening contest on day three, the Grade 1 Turners Novices’ Chase (2m4f), saw the Paul Nicholls-trained Stage Star make his breakthrough at the top level over fences under a fine front-running ride from Harry Cobden.
Hot favourite Mighty Potter tried to make up ground after turning for home but the winner, racing for the Owners Group, had gone beyond recall and it was left to outsider Notlongtillmay to claim the runner-up spot for the Laura Morgan stable.
The Cheveley Park Stud silks were back in the winner’s enclosure at the Cheltenham Festival following Envoi Allen’s victory in the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase (2m4½f) under Rachael Blackmore.
Henry de Bromhead’s charge, who jumped well on the drop back from three miles, had a clear lead at the final fence and while favourite Shishkin stayed on strongly, an indifferent round of jumping meant he had too much ground to make up, going down by two and three-quarter lengths, with Hitman a neck away in third.