Rachael Blackmore aboard Captain Guinness after winning the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase on day two of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival. Alamy Stock Photo
Take a Bow

Captain Guinness and Rachael Blackmore rise to the occasion in Champion Chase

Hot favourite El Fabiolo pulled up after jumping error.

CAPTAIN GUINNESS came out on top in a dramatic renewal of the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, in which red-hot favourite El Fabiolo was pulled up.

Trained by Henry de Bromhead and ridden by Rachael Blackmore, the nine-year-old was sent off a 17-2 chance, with Willie Mullins’ El Fabiolo starting as the heavily-supported 2-9 market leader in the absence of supposed main rival Jonbon.

However, a jumping error led to Paul Townend’s mount being pulled up, and when the front-running Edwardstone fell two out — albeit when looking beaten — it was Captain Guinness who went on to prevail, holding off El Fabiolo’s stablemate Gentleman De Mee in a real battle up the hill.

Winning the race for the fourth time, De Bromhead said: “Obviously after El Fabiolo went you knew then that the race had opened right up and we felt we had a right chance then.

“Can mistakes happen more at the speed they go in this race, I don’t know.

“He had his thing at Christmas (fibrillating heart) and I just kept thinking the horse deserved to get his Grade One so much, to get this one is amazing.

“Everyone at home has done a fantastic job and the vets. The tests he went through after Christmas, his heart specialist was happy and the IHRB (Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board) was happy and everyone was. In fairness to Sam who looks after him, he hadn’t known him in such form.

“We took a view from Leopardstown in February we just wouldn’t train him hard and keep him fresh and happy and that’s what we did. We just wanted him really bullish and he’s been trying to buck Sam off for the last two weeks, so I’m not sure he was as happy with the plan as I was, but it’s worked out for us all now.”

He added: “We’ve been so lucky in this race, it’s such an exciting race. You can’t make any mistake really, it’s about speed and accuracy.

“Another year when we won it Douvan was odds-on for the whole year. You can’t be afraid of one horse, but you pick your spots. You don’t do it every day of the week, but this place is different.”

Blackmore was adding the Champion Chase to her glittering CV for the first time.

“I could hear and see El Fabiolo make a mistake beside me, so I knew he was out of the equation then and your thinking changes, I suppose,” she said.

“It happened quite early on and we still had a long way to go, so I was just trying to ride from fence to fence, but it does change your brain a little bit for sure.

“The horse in front (Edwardstone) is such a good jumper, but my horse is a good jumper as well and and I didn’t want him to have it too easy in front.

“It was a long way up the hill after the last and I was glad we got to the line. I was trying to save and halfway up the hill I was thinking I hadn’t saved enough, but he’s an incredible horse.

“I’m not shocked because I thought his day would come, but at the same time I can’t believe it came.

“He ran so well here last year, I know he was beaten a long way but he still ran really well behind an incredibly talented horse (Energumene). He’s been in great form at home and when you’re riding for Henry around here this week, he does get them spot on.

“I was very hopeful coming into the race and I’m so delighted it’s happened for him on the biggest stage of all. I know Henry has won this race a few times, but I haven’t and it’s an incredible race to win.

“Sometimes it’s hard to let these things sink into you, it’s unbelievable.”

Mullins said: “I was very concerned that he reached for an early one and then stood back too far at the fence going away from the stands and didn’t get high enough.

“He got very low over a couple of them and I know he was a bit chancy before, but I was very concerned. He jumped the last one good and then of course he just stood back too far and didn’t get high enough. It’s very disappointing.”

He added: “I’m delighted for Henry and delighted for Rachael and our Gentleman De Mee ran a cracker, so we’re delighted.”

Press Association
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