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.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
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

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?