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'Probably the most nerve-wracking race I've ever watched': Willie Mullins' Monkfish justifies short odds

Not all plain sailing, but Mullins hotpot gets the job done.

Monkfish after claiming his second Cheltenham Festival success.
Monkfish after claiming his second Cheltenham Festival success.
Image: Tim Goode/PA

MONKFISH MAINTAINED HIS unbeaten record over fences with a comprehensive success in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

A narrow winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival, the Willie Mullins-trained chestnut was the 1-4 favourite to strike gold in the Cotswolds for a second time, having been faultless in three previous chase starts.

It was not entirely plain sailing for odds-on backers, with The Big Breakaway more than matching Monkfish in the jumping department for much of the three-mile contest, before Paul Townend’s mount displayed his superior class to move clear before the home turn.

The presence of the riderless Eklat De Rire, who unseated Rachael Blackmore earlier in the race, will have had Monkfish’s supporters sweating in the home straight, as would a mistake at the final fence.

But it ultimately made no difference to the result, with the giant seven-year-old galloping up the hill to score by six and a half lengths from Fiddlerontheroof.

“Heart-stopping,” Mullins told ITV Racing afterwards. “I have to thank James McCarthy, heart surgeon in the Blackrock Clinic last year, for the good job he did on this [his heart].”

“When he made a mistake at the last, or whatever he did, I don’t know, it’ll be even harder to watch on the replay.”

He added: “I don’t want to go through that again, I think. That was probably the most nerve-wracking race I’ve ever watched.” 

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