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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019

Donn McClean's Day 3 review: The Sport of Queens and Fehily's final ride

There was reminiscing and there were emotions – the third day had a sprinkling of everything.

Bryony Frost celebrates victory in the Ryanair Chase aboard Frodon.
Bryony Frost celebrates victory in the Ryanair Chase aboard Frodon.
Image: Nigel French

THEY SAY THAT the third day of the Cheltenham Festival is the fourth best day of the Cheltenham Festival. Not this year. Not in 2019.

The day was topped and tailed by JP McManus. The top was Defi Du Seuil in the JLT Chase, the best horse in the race and, under a typically no-nonsense ride from Barry Geraghty, the winner on merit.

He and his old sparring partner Lostintranslation came away from their field and, just as was the case at Sandown in February, but not at Cheltenham in January, it was the Philip Hobbs-trained horse who emerged on top.

That’s 2-1 to the JP McManus horse now in their private league table, and it’s not difficult to argue now that, under these conditions, over this distance, Defi Du Seuil is the better horse.

2019 Cheltenham Festival - St Patrick's Thursday - Cheltenham Racecourse Defi Du Seuil (right) streaks to victory ahead of Lostintranslation. Source: Paul Harding

Any Second Now was the tail, top class amateur rider Derek O’Connor driving him to victory in the Kim Muir. It was some ride, and it was some training performance by Ted Walsh, to get a horse who hadn’t won a chase in nine prior attempts to record his first victory at the Cheltenham Festival.

You could see how much this victory meant to the trainer, notching his first Cheltenham Festival win since Commanche Court won the Triumph Hurdle in 1997.

It’s a special place, Ted told us. There’s a magic about it.

There was a magic about the whole day. Bryony Frost won the Ryanair Chase on the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon and sprinkled stardust.

If horses could talk to just one human in the world, they would talk to Bryony Frost and she would interpret for the rest of us.

She interpreted for Frodon.

“Don’t you dare give up,” the horse told her as they approached the final fence.

“Don’t you dare not send me into the last. I want this more than you. Now come on!”

It seemed like we were filling the time for an age before Frodon and Bryony came back into the winner’s enclosure, but nobody was going anywhere.

They packed high and they packed deep and they strained their necks and they clapped and they (three-)cheered. It was a veritable cacophony to which horse and rider returned.

And afterwards, in the post-race dispatches, Bryony sprinkled more dust.

He’s the perfection of determination, she told us. The dream he has just made come true for me is unbelievable. He’s Pegasus. He has wings.

And we lapped it up.

2019 Cheltenham Festival - St Patrick's Thursday - Cheltenham Racecourse The toast of Cheltenham: Byrony Frost and Frodon stole the show during today's Ryanair Chase. Source: Paul Harding

We lapped up Paisley Park too. Andrew Gemmell’s horse hit the same flat spot that he had hit in the Cleeve Hurdle in January on the run down the hill.

We got a more protracted look at it in the Stayers’ Hurdle, against better opposition, and he looked in trouble as they approached the final turn.

But when they straightened up for the run home and Aidan Coleman took him into clear sailing on the near side, his stamina kicked in and he had the race in the bag before he got in tight to the final flight. Sure didn’t all the great staying hurdlers hit flat spots?

Inglis Drever used to hit a flat spot. Big Buck’s used to hit a flat spot. Baracouda used to hit a flat spot. A flat spot appears to be a requisite part of the top-class stayer’s armoury.

In the end, Paisley Park won with his ears pricked.

He is a horse of a lifetime for owner Andrew Gemmell, and he has been a landmark horse for Emma Lavelle and Aidan Coleman.

He provided both trainer and rider with their respective inaugural Grade 1 wins when he landed the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December. As long as he remains sounds, he could win a few more Stayers’ Hurdles.

Lizzie Kelly was very good too on Siruh Du Lac in the Plate. Metronomic from the front, fence by fence, she got the rhythm right and she got the pace spot on.

It is not easy to make all the running in a 22-runner handicap chase on easy ground at Cheltenham, you need to get the fractions right, and Lizzie Kelly and Siruh Du Lac did.

When Barry Geraghty got the Gordon Elliott-trained Sire Du Berlais up on the line to land the Pertemps Final and a fair gamble, he claimed the armband that the leading rider for the meeting wears, and he wore it all day after that.

He deserved it too. It was a fine ride, strong and well-timed, on a horse who looked to be in trouble at varying stages of the race.

Then Noel Fehily, one of the best among this golden generation of National Hunt riders, got the Willie Mullins-trained Eglantine Du Seuil up on the line to spring a 50/1 shock in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, and promptly announced that this would be his last Cheltenham Festival.

There was reminiscing and there were emotions. The third day had a sprinkling of everything this year.

Bernard Jackman joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey on The42 Rugby Weekly as Ireland bid to spoil Wales’ Grand Slam party in Cardiff, and the U20s target their own piece of history.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Donn McClean

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