Racing: Cheltenham Festival: Sound silences Irish

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The Independent Online
THE WHITEWASH bucket was being sought again yesterday as Ireland's Festival challengers fell by the wayside.

A haul of six winners last year suggested the horses from over the Irish Sea had recovered from the dearth of the 1980s, but the bad times returned yesterday and the biggest roar from the visitors was the one of anticipation that heralded the first race.

The Irish bring with them both hope and money in large amounts, but as Sound Man, Winter Belle and Gimme Five capitulated after being strongly supported, both commodities dripped away.

The first race floored home- grown punters as well, as the 50- 1 chance Arctic Kinsman bolted in by eight lengths. 'He's been running on faster ground round tight tracks,' Nigel Twiston- Davies, the winning trainer, said by way of explanation for his gelding's previous losing form. 'We've always thought he was a wonderful horse.'

In the Arkle Chase Simon Christian's Nakir continued the trend by beating more fancied rivals. The result could have been different if Coonawara had not fallen at the third last, at the same time detonating the aspirations of Thumbs Up.

Christian bought Nakir in France after watching a video of him, and was yesterday replaying his previous success in this race with Oregon Trail in 1986.

The trainer's pedigree in the race was matched by that of the winning jockey, Jamie Osborne, who completed a hat- trick following the victories of Young Pokey and Travado.

Malcolm Jefferson, the Malton trainer, pulled off a personal coup in the last with Tindari. 'I don't mind saying now that we laid out the horse to win,' he said. 'It is the best feeling in the world to have a winner here.'

There was more general relief when Antonin and Fighting Words justified favouritism, the latter giving Josh Gifford a ninth Cheltenham win. Fighting Words's success typified Ireland's day as he hung on to repel Homer Scott's The Committee by a short-head.

The attendance was 35,995, up 2.69 per cent on last year.