Jimmy Nesbitt watched in near disbelief as the scene-stealing Barry Geraghty delivered a superb performance to bring home the actor's Riverside Theatre in the Ryanair Chase yesterday.
It was good enough, he suggested, to forgo an Oscar in exchange for the sight of Geraghty guiding his horse home ahead of last year's winner Albertas Run.
Repeatedly, Riverside Theatre seemed to surrender the possibilities created by his recent fine win at Ascot – but then each time the Irish rider who seems certain to clinch the Cheltenham winners' title nursed him back into the race.
"It was extraordinary," said Nesbitt. "I can't really talk, to be honest. I'm someone who normally cries at Little House on the Prairie. Certainly, if anyone around here deserves an Oscar it's Barry. He did an extraordinary job bringing him back. It's pasted into the album of my memory, I can tell you."
Trainer Nicky Henderson, who, like Geraghty, is dominating the Festival, shared the owner's doubts as their contender came to the last with a faltering stride. "I was watching with Jimmy," said the trainer, "and we were all doom and gloom. It means that you can't say enough about the ride Barry's given him. The horse might be good-looking but he's very, very tough and will dig really deep."
Geraghty was as stunned as his admirers when he crossed the finishing line. "All the way round I thought I had no chance, he was never travelling well enough to hold his position," he said. "I threw him at the third last but I still thought I had no chance. It was the same at the second last and the last, but you never give up trying here – and nor did he.
"He's a gorgeous, handsome horse but today he's showed he's not just a pretty boy."
Nesbitt, no doubt, will be looking forward to an encore.