Zaynar's battling triumph shows champion potential

The ears had it here yesterday. Where horses are concerned, those organs of hearing are an almost infallible guide to mental attitude and physical demeanour and so it proved up this demanding climb to the finish. At the end of the opening Triumph Hurdle, two greys attacked the final hurdle as one, zipping low over the obstacle with bold do-or-die leaps and both apparently under maximum pressure.

Then, half-way up the run-in, came the sight that backers of the favourite Walkon, his trainer Alan King and his rider Choc Thornton did not want. At that point his own ears were pinned flat back as he reached deep into his athletic well, but those of his rival, Zaynar, began to prick and flick, a sure sign that their owner had time to take in his surroundings and was by no means at fullest stretch.

And sure enough, when Barry Geraghty demanded that he apply himself fully to the fight in hand, he willingly found enough reserves to surge ahead and prevail by a narrow, but cosy enough, three-quarters of a length. "He hasn't had that much experience," said Geraghty, "but I could feel he had a lot in the tank. He was only ever doing enough in front but when I went for maximum effort as the other one came at me, he knuckled down really well."

It was Zaynar's third win from as many outings over hurdles and at Geraghty's suggestion he ran with sheepskin cheekpieces applied to his bridle to help focus his still callow powers of concentration through the race. "He's always been a good jumper," said his trainer, Nicky Henderson, "and he stays very well, but he's still very much a baby. Barry, who's a real thinking jockey, suggested we help him. We just didn't know what he'd do when it came to a battle, but now we do. He's tough."

Zaynar, who is owned by a syndicate which includes the bookmaker Victor Chandler, adds to an impressive hurdling powerbase at Seven Barrows which includes this year's Champion Hurdle first and third. Chandler has backed his son of Daylami at 12-1 for next year's title. "We'd better not tell Punjabi and Binocular," added Henderson with a grin.

In the afternoon's other top-level contest for beginners, the Albert Bartlett Hurdle, the finish was almost an action replay. Weapon's Amnesty rose at the last a fraction ahead of Pride Of Dulcote, and the pair, with Davy Russell and Ruby Walsh in their respective saddles, set to another stirring duel.

Weapon's Amnesty, strongly driven, seemed in control, even if only just. Then in the last half-dozen strides came that tell-tale flick of an ear. "He wasn't doing a stroke in front, he was looking up at the crowd, and I was hoping Ruby would keep coming at me and his horse would help mine to the line."

The chestnut held on by half a length to give his Limerick-based trainer, Charles Byrnes, his maiden Festival victory after twice hitting the bar in the same race, with Liskennett last year and Powerstation in 2006.

Weapon's Amnesty runs in the colours of Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud, and was compensation for the absence of War Of Attrition from the Gold Cup. The Ryanair boss, who did not build up a business empire by lack of attention to detail, had an explanation for the mis-punctuation of his latest star's name. "We had it right when we sent it to Weatherbys [the sport's secretariat] to register," he said. "The Irish got the English right, but the English managed to get it wrong. But I wouldn't dare change it back now."

After Medermit, Karabak and Voy Por Ustedes, Walkon was the fourth runner-up of the week for King, all in Grade One contests, but good things come to those who wait. It was left to one of the Wiltshire yard's lesser lights, Oh Crick, to salvage some pride, which he did at the last available opportunity, the closing Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup. The six-year-old led over the last and, chased all the way by Moon Over Miami, held on by three-quarters of a length with Wayne Hutchinson's desperate body language implying that he would have leapt from the saddle and lifted the beast over the line if necessary.

"If that had got beat a short-head," said King, "you might just have heard the sound of a shot from behind the stands. I can't complain, because they've been running well; if they'd been tailed off I would have really had something to worry about. But second isn't first."

Festival statistics: The week's winners

JOCKEYS

Ruby Walsh 7 wins

Barry Geraghty 3

TRAINERS

Paul Nicholls 5 wins

Willie Mullins 3

Nick Henderson 3

Venetia Williams 2

Nigel Twiston-Davies 2

BRITAIN V IRELAND

Britain 17 wins Ireland 9

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

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

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album