Special Tiara lands Queen Mother as Douvan’s run ends
Noel Fehily lands big-race double at Cheltenham on the Henry de Bromhead-trained horse
Superstar chaser Douvan was bitterly disappointing as the Henry de Bromhead-trained Special Tiara enjoyed his day in the sun in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Unbeaten in 13 previous starts for Willie Mullins, Douvan was the 2-9 favourite to add to his tally in the feature event on day two of the Festival.
Already a dual winner at the showpiece meeting having landed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Arkle Trophy in the last two years, this was meant to be the day Douvan graduated to championship level with honours, but instead those in attendance witnessed one of the biggest shocks in recent memory at Prestbury Park.
The prohibitively-priced seven-year-old was initially well positioned under Ruby Walsh, but the crowd gasped as he stood off the fence in front of the stands and that proved the first of a few uncharacteristically inaccurate leaps.
He was still on the premises racing down the hill, but it was soon apparent his usual spark was missing and he eventually trailed home a well-beaten seventh.
Mullins said: “He was clearly never going and I thought at the top of the hill he’d do very well to win.
“I’m assuming something happened when he put in those huge jumps, which I’ve never seen him do before.
“I imagine I’ll find a physical problem with him.”
At the business end of proceedings, Special Tiara, third in the last two Champion Chases and sixth in 2014, devoured his fences in his customary pacesetting role.
Fox Norton finished like a train from the final fence, but Special Tiara clung on by a head in the hands of Irish jockey Noel Fehily. Sir Valentino was another six lengths away in third.
Fehily, who won the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, said: “Unbelievable. He’s such a great ride, he’s everything a two-mile chaser should be. He’s a very good horse.
“I didn’t think we’d beat Douvan, but I thought I had a great chance of being second. I got over the last and was surprised something hadn’t come to me, but I knew he wasn’t stopping.
“He has one way of running and that’s flat to the mat and jump – I just let him get on with it.
“I’ve always loved two-mile chasers, the Champion Chase is the one you want to win. To win it is fantastic.”
De Bromhead was winning the two-mile crown for the second time following the victory of the popular Sizing Europe in 2011.
He said: “It’s an amazing day, I’m just so pleased for everyone involved.
“He seemed in great form coming into it, but it was hard to believe we could win with Douvan and everything else – Douvan had looked so good.
“For our lad, he just tries his heart out and no-one deserves it more.”
Colin Tizzard said of the runner-up Fox Norton: “When he jumped the last it looked like he was going to get there.
“Special Tiara has done this for the last few years but to be fair to the horse he pulled out more.
“We had a conversation about this race and Douvan or the Ryanair and I still don’t know if we made the right choice.
“He’s a fresh horse so he’ll go to Aintree next over two and a half miles [Melling Chase].”
Cause Of Causes claimed the third Festival success of his career with a tremendous display in the Glenfarclas Chase to give Gordon Elliott a fourth win of the week.
Having won the National Hunt Chase in 2015 and the Kim Muir 12 months ago under Jamie Codd, the combination were among the market leaders for this cross-country event at 4-1.
French raider Amazing Comedy led to the second-last, but was soon swamped by a trio of JP McManus-owned runners and Bless The Wings.
Cause Of Causes picked up to lead at the final obstacle and galloped up the hill for a nine-length success over stablemate Bless The Wings.
Cantlow, the 9-4 favourite, was third ahead of Auvergnat in fourth.
Elliott said: “He seems to come well at Cheltenham every year.
“He’s an absolute superstar and we love him to bits. Jamie also gave him a great ride.
“It was a great result as we also had the second.
“If you have a plan, you have to try and do it right.
“We’ve had an unbelievable week. It’s been a dream come true. ”
Supasundae took charge of the Coral Cup for trainer Jessica Harrington and jockey Robbie Power to open the Irish account on Ladies’ Day at Cheltenham.
Owned by Alan and Ann Potts, the 16-1 chance came into his own approaching the final flight and was much too good for Taquin Du Seuil, who succumbed by two lengths. Who Dares Wins and Monksland finished third and fourth respectively.
Power said: “He’s galloped all the way to the line. He was a very, very good bumper horse and beat Yanworth in the (Aintree) Bumper.
Harrington said: “I only inherited him this year from Henry de Bromhead so it’s absolutely fantastic.
“Good ground was the real making of him. We knew he’d improve a real lot on that ground.”
Tombstone, the 7-2 favourite, was most disappointing.
Nick Williams gained his first Cheltenham Festival winner as Flying Tiger ran out a 33-1 victor in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle.
The well-fancied Divin Bere moved smoothly towards the front end rounding the home turn before being joined by Nietzsche at the final flight.
However, it was Flying Tiger who finished best, getting up to beat Divin Bere and provide champion jockey Richard Johnson with his first winner of this year’s Festival.
Nietzsche was third ahead of Project Bluebook in fourth.
Johnson said: “It’s fantastic. Lizzie Kelly was riding another horse [Diable De Sivola, fifth] but has done a lot of work to get him settled.
“He’s always been talented in France but he got it right on the day.
“I’m slightly speechless.”
Locally-based trainer Ben Pauling lapped up the glory of his first Cheltenham Festival success after Willoughby Court saw off red-hot favourite Neon Wolf in a titanic battle for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle.
Widely regarded as one of the bankers of the week having dominated his rivals on each of his three previous starts under Rules, the Harry Fry-trained Neon Wolf was the 2-1 favourite for the opener on the day two of the meeting.
For much of the two-mile-five-furlong journey things appeared to be going to script, with the market leader always well placed in the hands of a confident-looking Noel Fehily.
Neon Wolf loomed up ominously after jumping the second-last, but Ben Pauling’s dual Warwick winner was still going well at the head of affairs having set out to make all and try as he might, Neon Wolf could never quite get on terms.
Both horses showed admirable courage as they fought tooth and nail up the famous hill, but it was 14-1 shot Willoughby Court who won the argument by a head under David Bass.
1.30 Neptune Novices’ Hurdle
1 Willoughby Court 14-1
2 Neon Wolf 2-1f
3 Messire Des Obeaux 8-1
1 Might Bite 7-2f
2 Whisper 9-2
3 Bellshill 5-1
1 Supasundae 16-1
2 Taquin Du Seuil 12-1
3. Who Dares Wins 33-1
4 Monksland 66-1
Queen Mother Champion Chase
1 Special Tiara 11-1
2 Fox Norton 7-1
3 Sir Valentino 33-1
Cross Country Chase 1 Cause Of Causes 4-1
2 Bless The Wings 10-1
3 Cantlow 9-4 fav
Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
1 Flying Tiger 33-1
2 Divin Bere 9-2 fav
3 Nietzsche 12-1
4 Project Bluebook 14-1