Cheltenham: All that was green and gold glitters for JP McManus on day two

Cheltenham: All that was green and gold glitters for JP McManus on day two
A general view of the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle during day two of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire

All that glitters is not gold, a talented writer called William Shakespeare (you may have heard of him) once wrote. He was right.

But today, on day two of the Cheltenham Festival, almost all that was green and gold did indeed glitter as leading owner JP McManus, fresh from Epatante’s Champion Hurdle victory on his 69th birthday, saw his famous colours carried to victory in four of the seven races up for grabs, though, ironically, not the feature contest, the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

That race looked at the mercy of Defi Du Seuil after Chacun Pour Soi, the sole Irish runner, was ruled out of the race early yesterday morning.

But, given his fondness for tragedies, Shakespeare would probably have taken perverse delight at seeing a horse finish fourth in a five-horse race that conventional wisdom dictated he simply couldn’t lose.

Owner JP McManus with Champ after winning the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase on Day Two of Cheltenham. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Owner JP McManus with Champ after winning the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase on Day Two of Cheltenham. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

But winning four races will have more than made up for that bitter disappointment. Victory number one came in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase when 4-1 shot Champ, named after AP McCoy, the 20 times champion jockey of Britain, stormed up the famous Cheltenham hill to snatch victory from the jaws of seemingly certain defeat.

Working as a pundit for ITV, McCoy, whose young son Archie adores a horse he considers to be his own personal property, said: “I was surprised he struggled so much off the bend, but the one thing I thought was he’d really stay and that’s what he’s done today. That was pretty pleasing.”

McManus was back in the winner’s enclosure 40 minutes later when Dame De Compagnie, who like Champ was ridden by Barry Geraghty, justified 5-1 favouritism in the Coral Cup.

Defi Du Seuil’s defeat in the next was a significant setback but the McManus show got back on track in the next when French raider Easysland denied Irish favourite Tiger Roll a fifth Festival success when prevailing in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase.

Ruby Walsh (left) and AP McCoy with the Duchess of Cornwall as she attends Ladies Day at the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture: Jacob King/PA Wire
Ruby Walsh (left) and AP McCoy with the Duchess of Cornwall as she attends Ladies Day at the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture: Jacob King/PA Wire

Trainer Gordon Elliott later confirmed that a shot at an historic third successive Grand National remains on the card for Tiger Roll, though the coronavirus may have something to say about that.

 Racegoer Yuan Li from London ahead of racing on Day Two of the Cheltenham Racing Festival at Prestbury Park in Cheltenham, England. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Racegoer Yuan Li from London ahead of racing on Day Two of the Cheltenham Racing Festival at Prestbury Park in Cheltenham, England. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The final green and gold winner of the day got a far warmer reception than the third as Aramax, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Mark Walsh, won the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle to complete a 1,019-1 four-timer for McManus. Not a bad day’s work.

The day had had the perfect start when Irish banker Envoi Allen, trained by Elliott and ridden by Youghal jockey Davy Russell, proved his usual efficient self when winning the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at odds of 4-7.

“This was the big one for the week. He is the people's horse and everyone wanted him to win,” a relieved Elliott reflected.

Racegoers show their support during the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) during day two of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Racegoers show their support during the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) during day two of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Last year was the first time Russell failed to ride a winner at the Festival since his first success back in 2006 so the veteran jockey was understandably thrilled to taste the thrill of victory again:

Today is a wonderful day and you just have to enjoy these. They are hard to come by and we are going to enjoy it.

A day that had started in frustration for Willie Mullins after Chacun Pour Soi’s 11th hour setback had a happy ending as Ferny Hollow, ridden by Midleton jockey Paul Townend, got the better of stablemate Appreciate It in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

The crowd was down again yesterday, 56,943 making the trip in comparison to last year’s record attendance of 59, 209.

With Irish-trained horses winning the last two races, the British have a slender 7-6 lead in the Prestbury Cup at the halfway stage of the week but there’s no doubt who yesterday’s real winner was.

It’s JP’s world, we just happen to live in it.

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