Cheltenham Festival: Cole Harden wins World Hurdle

Cole Harden and jockey Gavin Sheehan
Cole Harden gave jockey Gavin Sheehan a first win at the Cheltenham Festival

Cole Harden caused an upset in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham as the 14-1 shot saw off Paul Nicholls-trained duo Saphir Du Rheu and Zarkandar.

A bold ride from Gavin Sheehan got the winner home by three-and-a-quarter lengths.

It was a first Festival win for the jockey and trainer Warren Greatrex.

At Fishers Cross was fourth for AP McCoy, who earlier claimed victory in the Ryanair Chase at his last Cheltenham Festival on 16-1 Uxizandre.

Greatrex said: "I believed in the horse, but I was struggling with him early season.

"I'm normally a cool customer but I got very nervous and the emotion showed after he had won.

"Gavin deserves enormous credit for getting everything right on him."

Sheehan said: "This is what dreams are made of."

He added: "He's done everything right but I was just waiting for a horse to fly past me and beat me.

"I had my head down going for home and I didn't know where the good horses were but I wasn't going to look round."

McCoy off the mark

AP McCoy
AP McCoy rode Uxizandre to a five-length victory in the Ryanair Chase at his final Cheltenham Festival

There was a certain irony as 19-time champion McCoy acknowledged the cheers from a packed winner's enclosure.

After 11 defeats this week, the Northern Irishman, 40, produced a perfect ride from the front to triumph on Uxizandre for trainer Alan King and owner JP McManus.

BBC horse racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght
"This was vintage McCoy stuff, grabbing the race by the proverbial scruff of the neck, and determinedly never letting go, boldly leading all the way for victory.
"Brilliantly judged, the others were left trailing - ever heard that before about McCoy? It was a very special moment charged with high emotion for jockey and supporters alike.
"It all meant that the impressive front-running win by Cole Harden will be dwarfed, but have no doubt this was a breakthrough success for a trainer (Warren Greatrex) and jockey (Gavin Sheehan) who'll be here again."

Ma Filleule was five lengths back in second, with favourite Don Cossack third.

Who would have thought McCoy, the record-breaking winner of over 4,300 races, would save the bookies with victory on an outsider?

And Uxizandre had actually unseated Barry Geraghty in his last run, the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury - won by Mr Mole, ridden by McCoy, who announced his intention to retire afterwards.

Walsh and Mullins again with Vautour

Vautour and jockey Ruby Walsh
Vautour produced a brilliant display of jumping under Ruby Walsh to take the opening JLT Novices' Chase

Vautour produced a breathtaking display of jumping when romping home by 15 lengths to win the JLT Novices' Chase for the in-form team of jockey Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins.

The six-year-old, owned by Rich Ricci, was following up victory in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at last year's Festival.

"I've always loved this horse, from the time he won here last year," said Mullins, celebrating his sixth win of the fixture.

Ricci added: "I've never seen a novice jump round here like that - that was extraordinary.

"I said to Ruby afterwards that it was probably the best performance of the week and he said it was the best horse we brought."

Any other business

Twenty years on from his famous Champion Hurdle-Gold Cup double, trainer Kim Bailey was back in the winner's enclosure after victory for 33-1 chance Darna.

Bailey, now based about 10 miles from the track at Andoversford, triumphed in 1995 with hurdler Alderbrook and steeplechaser Master Oats, but this win in the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate was his first at the Festival since Betty's Boy in 1999.

Darna was providing a maiden victory at the fixture for David Bass, who would have preferred to ride stablemate Un Ace but had to make way for McCoy on the other horse, who ended up finishing 13th.

Meanwhile, all-time leading Festival trainer Nicky Henderson got off the mark at this year's meeting when Call The Cops (9-1) won the Pertemps Network Final under jockey Andrew Tinkler.

The final race of the day, the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup, saw 12-year-old The Package (9-1) roll back the years for a first ever victory at the Festival - though a second of the week for jockey Jamie Codd.

Quote of the day

"We've had him cloned" - AP McCoy's boss JP McManus, the millionaire racehorse owner, when asked how he will replace the jockey.

And finally...

It wasn't all good news for World Hurdle-winning jockey Gavin Sheehan. After receiving a report from a stipendiary steward that Sheehan had used his mobile phone outside the designated area, stewards held an inquiry. After hearing the evidence, Sheehan was found to be in breach of Rule (D)33.1 and was fined £290.

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