Cheltenham Festival: Victories for Cue Card and Solwhit fail to mask drop in class in day three

The rest of the card was mostly attrition for the punters

Even in providing two perfectly deserving Grade One winners, the third day of this meeting contrived to reiterate its status as a relative hiatus in quality. For the big races not only measured the dependable qualities of Cue Card and Solwhit, but also evoked two others who have soared rather closer to greatness. The former had fled from another thrashing from Sprinter Sacre, while the latter had to reel in a rival who was only here as a substitute for Big Buck’s. Together, however, they showed that the fulfilment of class is first and foremost a matter of constitution.

Cue Card has now run here four times. He won the bumper in his youth, finished just behind Sprinter Sacre when they came third and fourth in a novice hurdle, and then followed him home at a suitably respectful distance in the Arkle Chase last year. Connections gave long consideration to again trying their luck against the sport’s latest phenomenon here on Wednesday, but ultimately decided that it would be asking for trouble and opted instead for the Ryanair Chase.

Not that the longer race promised to be any kind of cakewalk. Its sponsors had persuaded Mouse Morris – who might well suggest a more apposite verb – to switch their horse, First Lieutenant, from the Gold Cup. Following the dramatic news of injury to Davy Russell, their silks were instead worn by 20-year-old Bryan Cooper, who had just sealed his status as the rising star of Irish jump racing with a breakthrough Festival success on Benefficient in the opener. But Joe Tizzard, himself barely an adolescent when winning the Foxhunters’ Chase here in 1998, sent Cue Card bounding into the lead and, though escorted by Champion Court for a time, they were always in control.

Three out, First Lieutenant made an uncharacteristic error. Suddenly Cue Card was clear, and the favourite looked flat-footed. Here was the moment when it became clear why Morris had wanted to go for the longer race. First Lieutenant did gamely outstay For Non Stop for second – his trainer’s third of the meeting – but Cue Card had flown. He was driven out by nine lengths for yet another great family success here this week.

Cue Card is trained by Tizzard’s father, Colin, on their farm in Dorset. But theirs is no mere bucolic pipedream. Cue Card is the flagbearer of an expanding and ambitious stable, which had already celebrated a runaway handicap success on the opening day. “I’m glad it’s over because there’s been a lot of pressure the past fortnight,” Tizzard Sr said. “I have found it quite hard. And today he did everything we thought he would. They went a true old gallop and he jumped fast and fluent. It was a beautiful ride from Joe, and having your son on the horse is the pinnacle. Then again it does have its reverse, when things go wrong! The beautiful thing about it is that this horse loves Cheltenham. He made my spine tingle in the bumper but we have come to expect it from him now.”

You could set your clock, likewise, by Solwhit. The Ladbrokes World Hurdle was his ninth Grade One success, and also the most wonderful – being his first since a tendon injury. He was sidelined for nearly two years, but Charles Byrnes was convinced the flame still burned at nine. Stepping him up to three miles for the first time, the Co Limerick trainer booked the per-fect man for the job in Paul Carberry.

With Oscar Whisky never looking comfortable and eventually pulled up, Solwhit closed stealthily from off the pace as Celestial Halo – carrying the familiar Big Buck’s colours of Andy Stewart, but unconsidered at 40-1 – mounted a startling challenge to Bog Warrior. As Bog Warrior dropped away, Carberry set after Celestial Halo and Solwhit saw out the climb to the line to win by two and a half lengths, with Smad Place again finishing third.

“We never lost faith in him,” Byrnes said. “In the past he was one of the few horses who could put it up to Hurricane Fly. He developed a bit of heat in a leg, but we always believed he still had all his old ability. In the last couple of weeks especially he has really come together. I’ve no doubt he would have beaten Big Buck’s if he’d been here last year.”

He will duly aim to bring him back in 2014, when it is hoped that an ageing Big Buck’s will be back to resolve that bold claim. This was a first success for the Irish since 1995 – and a gratifying moment for his artistic rider. “The English have been dominating this race, and there was also Baracouda for France, so it’s great to ride an Irish winner,” Carberry said. “I’ve been runner-up in a Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle, but I’m not usually riding the big horses in the big races, so this is the top.”

The rest of the card was mostly attrition for the punters, with a series of favourites turned over by outsiders – but due perspective was restored when J.T. McNamara, a top Irish amateur, was airlifted to hospital after a fall in the Kim Muir. His injuries were being assessed, but officials reported him to have been conscious.

Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor