Sausalito Bay's victory ends Meade's long wait
Istabraq may have been the highlight but, in terms of emotion, Sausalito Bay giving Noel Meade's his first festival success by taking the Capel Cure Supreme Novices' Hurdle ran him close. A spontaneous outburst of warmth greeted the Irish champion trainer who has waited 22 years for a Cheltenham victory and has endured agonising defeats with Hill Society, Batista and Heist as well as a host of other placed horses.
"I can die a happy man. That has finally put an end to the jinx," the Co Meath trainer beamed as he was engulfed by well-wishers. "It's about bloody time," shouted one race fan into the winner's enclosure, but despite the eclipse of the hot favourite, Youlneverwalkalone, there was also plenty financial interest in the winner, who was backed from 20s into 14 to 1.
Sausalito Bay took the race by the scruff of the neck from the start and, under an inspired effort from Paul Carberry, dictated a pace that suited him and not others, particularly the favourite. "I could've done with a bit more pace in the race but really I've no excuses. He's run a blinder," said Conor O'Dwyer, Youlneverwalkalone's rider.
It's just that Sausalito Bay blinded even more. Briefly he looked set to be swamped before the second last but found plenty for Carberry, and up the hill always had too much for his compatriot and the fast-finishing Best Mate. "He doesn't do anything quickly but he finds and finds and finds," said Carberry; while Meade commented of the 66,000 guineas purchase out of Ian Balding's stable: "We didn't have plans to make the running but the idea was to be handy, and he won last time ridden that way."
Sausalito Bay is owned by the five-man High Street Syndicate, who also shared in Meade's poor previous festival luck with Embellished and Advocat. Spokesman Brian Wallace from Dublin said: "Noel Meade will be pissed for a week but not until after tomorrow when we shall win the first with Oa Baldixe!"
Meade's luck didn't last to the Arkle Trophy, however, where Frozen Groom was travelling strongly in the lead until tripping up at the third last. "It was just a speed fall. He jumped it perfectly but knuckled," reported rider Barry Geraghty.
Jumping was at a priority in the race, with the favourite, Decoupage, making bad errors at the third and the second last which left him with nothing to peg back the Mick Fitzgerald-ridden Tiutchev. "You won't see many better rides in a novice chase," said winning trainer Nicky Henderson. Henderson later scored his 22nd festival success when Fitzgerald gave Marlborough a possibly better ride to take the William Hill Handicap Chase.
Shannon Gale was an expensive faller for the Irish in the Kim Muir Chase, with the race falling to Honey Mount; and the McManus colours also missed out in the Ladbrokes Casinos Final, where the well backed Take Five couldn't deal with the run-in flourish of Rubhahunish.
McManus's other runner, the 4 to 1 favourite, Darapour, was fourth.