Favourite Bobs Worth proved himself the ultimate Cheltenham specialist with his stalking victory in the biggest race of them all, the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, to give Nicky Henderson his 50th winner at the Festival.
Recording his third consecutive win at the Cheltenham Festival and fifth at Prestbury Park in total, Bobs Worth hacked round in the middle of the pack while his stablemate, the former Gold Cup winner Long Run, made the running. Sir Des Champs took on the leader down the hill while Bobs Worth looked momentarily as if he wasn’t responding to Barry Geraghty’s urgings to go and catch the leaders, but by the time the front pair had taken the second-last fence Bobs Worth was hunting them down in earnest, and grabbed the lead just ahead of the last.
Desperate attempts from AP McCoy and Sam Waley-Cohen to keep their mounts in contention up the run-in were to no avail, with Bobs Worth posting a seven-length triumph over Sir Des Champs, with the valiant Long Run another two and three-quarter lengths back in third. For three years in a row he has made the frame in the Gold Cup.
Last year’s runner-up The Giant Bolster posted another decent round in steeplechasing’s biggest prize to take fourth under Tom Scudamore, while a miserable week for champion trainer Paul Nicholls continued as Silviniaco Conti fell on the second circuit.
Tony Martin called him “The next Ruby Walsh” following his win on Benefficient on Thursday and few will argue that Bryan Cooper is one of the brightest young stars of the weighing-room following a cool double in the first two races on Gold Cup day.
Our Conor provided the perfect curtain-raiser on Friday when cruising home to win the JCB Triumph Hurdle by a facile 15 lengths. One of the Festival bankers of the week, the Dessie Hughes-trained juvenile sat handy throughout, always within striking distance of the fierce pace-setting Diakali. Cooper allowed his mount to cruise alongside the leader on the bend before kicking for home up the hill, quickly putting plenty of fresh air between Our Conor and his pursuers.
“I’ve never had a feeling like it before,” said the 20-year-old jockey and son of Festival-winning trainer Tom Cooper. “Our Conor could give Hurricane Fly a run for his money next year.”
As the rain which started just prior to racing fell increasingly heavily, Cooper was back out on board another Tony Martin runner, the six-year-old Ted Veale, who took the 28-runner Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle by a length and a half from the Willie Mullins-trained Tennis Cap.
AP McCoy was luckless throughout the first three days of the Festival but brought home 11/8 favourite At Fishers Cross with ease in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle for his boss JP McManus and trainer Rebecca Curtis, who also had the fourth-placed O’Faolains Boy. McCoy followed up with a second victory, again for McManus, on Alderwood in the finale, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase. It was a second victory at the Festival for the Thomas Mullin-trained son of Champion Hurdle winner Alderbrook, who also took last year’s County Hurdle.
There was some small compensation, too, for Paul Nicholls, who claimed the penultimate race of the Festival with Salubrious, ridden by his nephew Harry Derham. Nicholls dedicated the win in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle to Dominic Baker, the son of his head lad Clifford Baker, who was killed last week in a car accident.