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Dublin: 10°C Friday 25 September 2020

The winners' enclosure: Walsh delivers on Big Buck's promise

For the punters who could afford to stick around, there was plenty of joy to be found inside the fog at Prestbury Park.

Image: Tim Ireland/PA Wire/Press Association Images

ANOTHER INCREDIBLE DAY of racing at Cheltenham presented some incredible performances.

To the fore was Big Buck’s who claimed his fourth World Hurdle, to the great relief of both Ruby Walsh and Paul Nicholls.

Neither have been anywhere close to their best this week and Nicholls admitted as much, telling Channel Four:

“I was getting a bit worried, because we had been totally out of luck and out of form.”

Yet as the words left his mouth you could almost see the pressure lifting from his shoulders.

Whilst there is rightly awe of Big Buck’s, it should be said that Voler La Vedette (a 20/1 outsider) was on hand to push the favourite all the way to the line.

Tactically, Walsh had to be at his best to see off the mare’s relentless challenge. He was.

If Big Bucks is a current superstar, the day was ignited by a young pretender. Sir Des Champs, owned by Michael O’Leary and trained by Willie Mullins, exuded all his class at the final turn in the Jewson Novices’ Chase.

Champions Court had travelled superbly well until that point, but Davy Russell dropped a gear and accelerated on up the hill.

If O’Leary rubs you up the wrong way, then Cheltenham may not be the place for you over the next few years – Sir Des Champs has been installed at 12/1 at next year’s Gold Cup and Long Run will have to be at his best to beat the six-year-old.

In O’Leary’s race, the Ryanair Chase, there was another celebrity owner on the trophy podium. James Nesbitt’s Riverside Theatre was yet another favourite to win out.

Just as he done with Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig on day one and two, Barry Geraghty proved a man to be trusted on a favourite.

He didn’t put a foot wrong on this ride, though did admit that keeping count of his whip use was difficult, so every touch was absolutely crucial: “Every time I dug into him,” said Geraghty, “he found more. It’s unbelievable for him to do it – at this level.”

Salut Flo ridden by Tom Scudamore (right) jumps the fence on the way to winning the Byrne Group Plate. / Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport.

Thursday’s big winner

It must be Sir Des Champs. He doesn’t have the illustrious history of Big Bucks and four World Hurdles, but the way he powered up that hill — Gold Cup glory awaits.

Thursday’s big loser

Don’t shed too many tears now, it’s the bookies. The last four races were taken by the favourites and Sir Des Champs was widely fancied. Only the second race of the day, the Pertemps Handicap, did not throw a heavily backed winner to the podium. Cape Tribulation was over 20/1 on Betfair.

Quote of the day

“My children always say ‘Daddy why are all your horses crap?’ Well, Matt and Luke, there you go.”

Michael O’Leary is getting ready to rub his children’s noses in his glorious glorious victory.

Tweet of the day?

Last year he got halfway there in his chopper, this year he didn’t get off the ground. Lee Westwood is giving up the ghost.

Looking forward

Boy, are we looking forward? The Gold Cup is the most hotly contested race of the year, but can anyone beat Long Run? Kauto Star will be having one final shot at it, while Synchronised and Nicky Henderson’s Burton Port can’t be counted out until the last hurdle is jumped.

As it happened: Cheltenham, day three

History-maker Big Buck’s wins Cheltenham feature

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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