Cheltenham Festival: Bobs Worth takes Gold Cup victory but final day overshadowed by McNamara concerns

The 11-4 favourite outstayed Tony McCoy and Sir Des Champs

They rode above the joyous tumult into the unsaddling enclosure, their features as grey as the heavy sky, their eyes far away – even Barry Geraghty, who had just crowned a defining week in his stellar career by winning its climax on a new young champion.

Bobs Worth had stormed up the hill to win a Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup that condensed all the addictive qualities of their calling. But the jockeys’ elixir, this time, had obtained an unpalatable bitterness.

One by one, through the afternoon, riders conjured an apologetic smile for the ecstatic owners and trainers who had provided them with the means to ostensible fulfilment. Otherwise they exuded only pity and dread on behalf of an absent rival, dear to many, whose sudden predicament had horribly exposed the vanity of even their greatest ambitions for this carnival. During the morning J T McNamara, the top amateur rider, had undergone surgery on two neck vertebrae fractured in a fall the previous day. Not one of his peers would hesitate to exchange 10 Gold Cups for good news now.

“I just wish it was a happier day,” Geraghty said, moments after pulling up. “We’re all very upset. You have to put it out of your mind when you’re racing, but even though this is one of the biggest days of my career, all I could think about was John Thomas. I hope and pray he will be OK.”

Injury to another colleague, Davy Russell, had left a vacancy on the fancied Irish runner, Sir Des Champs, and the timely withdrawal of Sunnyhillboy in the morning enabled Tony McCoy to take over. But the champion jockey’s grim expression riding back the winner of the race immediately beforehand, told how little his opportunity could mean. Wearing the silks of J P McManus, for whom McNamara has won several races here, he noted that the young jockey who had won the same race last year, Campbell Gillies, had since died in a swimming accident. “You have to enjoy these moments,” McCoy said. “But it’s very difficult. It is very hard to be happy today.”

The unsparing quality of their vocation was suitably reflected when the big race got under way, conditions having deteriorated rapidly with the onset of rain. Sam Waley-Cohen set a good tempo on Long Run, despite some inattentive jumps, tracked by The Giant Bolster. Silviniaco Conti was travelling sweetly under Ruby Walsh, while Geraghty settled Bobs Worth on the inside. Sir Des Champs seemed to be struggling for rhythm, but McCoy kept getting a response and, coming down the hill, they worked their way alongside Long Run.

Initially Bobs Worth could not match that move, and it was Silviniaco Conti who was going best in third when falling three out. There was still a long way to go, however, and whether he would have lasted home is impossible to know. The pair who had committed, after all, would prove spent on the run-in. By then Bobs Worth had regrouped, taking it up before the last, and Sir Des Champs could not sustain a brave rally on the hill. In the final strides Bobs Worth was surging right away, seven lengths clear at the post; it was another three back to Long Run in third, followed by another estimable campaigner in The Giant Bolster.

“He just struggled on the soft ground most of the way,” Geraghty said. “After a mile I knew he wasn’t happy so I just started trying to conserve his energy a bit. I thought he was beaten with five or six to jump, but he ran on down the hill, jumped the third last well, and from there I just held him together.”

Remarkably, Geraghty and his brother bought Bobs Worth as a yearling before selling him on at a loss to his boss, Nicky Henderson, after a market dip. Now the Seven Barrows trainer owes three of his 50 Festival successes to a horse still only eight years old. Bobs Worth is never flashy, but adores this hill and had won here as a novice over both hurdles and fences. After sitting out an intended  rehearsal here in January, he arrived with just five starts over fences to his name. But Henderson was never concerned and duly completed an outstanding double in both the great steeplechases of the week, having taken the Champion Chase on Wednesday with a rather more flamboyant creature in Sprinter Sacre.

“As individuals, they couldn’t be more different,” Henderson said. “One is the biggest show-off in the world, the other hides his light under a bushel. But this is such an honest horse, a thorough professional who loves what he does and loves coming up that hill.”

Henderson was no less proud of Long Run. “Both horses had a rather unorthodox preparation,” he noted. “Bobs Worth hadn’t run since the Hennessy and Long Run since the King George, so it’s been a long old wait, a lot of work, and the team at home has been absolutely brilliant.”

Willie Mullins hopes that Sir Des Champs will be able to try again some day on better ground. Eyebrows had been raised when McCoy became so conveniently available in the morning, but Jonjo O’Neill explained that Sunnyhillboy had scoped poorly and will now go straight to the John Smith’s Grand National. The British Horseracing Authority had “no concerns” over his withdrawal, and in honesty few professionals could bring themselves to care either way.

Colman Sweeney put it well, after a fortuitous success in the next race. The CGA Foxhunter Chase is very much an amateurs’ Gold Cup, and Jane Mangan looked desperately unlucky when the leader jinked and unseated her on the run-in. “I am gutted for Jane,” Sweeney said. “But her falling and me winning doesn’t matter when John Thomas is lying there in hospital. I ride against him every Sunday in point-to-points and was sick to my stomach last night. You would have to travel every single road in England and Ireland to find a bad word said against him. And I don’t think you’d do it.”

But it is pointless looking for a  reason. Yesterday it was hard enough to remember a purpose.

News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
Life and Style
tech

Sites using the popular Gigya comment platform were attacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Team of Female Support Workers Required - Competitive Pay

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: You will need to be able to follow instructio...

Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£10000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion the Largest In...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Car Sales Executive

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion the Largest Independent...

Langley James : CRM Services Manager; West London up to £40k

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Langley James : CRM Services Manager; West London u...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?