Racing / Cheltenham Festival: Double seals Swan's success

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The Independent Online
MONTELADO became the first horse to win consecutive races at the Cheltenham Festival yesterday. The Irish gelding, the winner of the closing bumper last season, took the Supreme Novice Hurdle yesterday to earn the onerous sash of the hottest young property in National Hunt racing.

Though Montelado travelled well throughout this assignment he is not a good voyager. Following a fraught passage to Cheltenham last season, the six-year-old was dispatched well beforehand this time and was the first animal to arrive at Prestbury Park this week.

The next trip to this course for Montelado could be for the Champion Hurdle. 'This is a really good horse,' Charlie Swan, the victorious jockey, reported. 'He stays, he has a got a high cruising speed and all the gears. He would be a cut above anything else I've ridden.'

Swan further distanced the recent barren times for the Irish when he took the last race, on Fissure Seal, and the lead in the race to become the meeting's top rider.

The holder of that title, Jamie Osborne, showed he had not lost his touch when Travado gave him a second successive Arkle Trophy.

This race routinely provides one of the most exhilarating contests of the Festival and yesterday was no different as the near-black Travado and the striking chestnut Wonder Man approached the final fence. 'I was a length down and I had to go for a long stride, a do-or-die stride, and the horse then battled up the hill for me,' Osborne said.

This had been billed as a head- to-head between Wonder Man and Sybillin, but the latter's chances waned the previous evening when Jimmy FitzGerald, his trainer, received poor results to a blood test.

Travado's trainer, Nick Henderson, never agreed with the match theory: 'They said it was a two- horse race, I thought it was three.'

Travado's preparation tested Henderson - the gelding took a fall at this course in November which closed one of his eyes for a month - and the trainer was pumping out answers with breathless relief in the winner's enclosure.

'The whole year is geared to this and when it comes off it's really great,' he said. 'But that's only one down and there's plenty to come.'

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