Nicky Henderson is now by far and away the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history after an incredible four-timer took him four clear of Fulke Walwyn’s record of 40.
Three were ridden by Barry Geraghty, with Finian’s Rainbow (4-1) taking a controversial running of the showpiece event, the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase.
The Lambourn maestro also struck with 2-1 favourite Simonsig in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle Bobs Worth (9-2) in the RSA Chase and finished the day with 40-1 shot Une Artiste in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
The Champion Chase saw Wishfull Thinking take a ghastly fall at the final fence on the first circuit, although thankfully both jockey Richard Johnson and a photographer caught up in the melee on the landing side escaped serious injury.
This left a straight battle between last year’s winner Sizing Europe (4-5 favourite) and Finian’s Rainbow, and the pair had to swerve around the dolled-off last fence, with Finian’s Rainbow only getting the upper hand in the final 50 yards to win by a length and a quarter.
“This is very special but it doesn’t happen without an enormous amount of work,” said Henderson.
“I only drive the ship, there’s a huge team at home including Corky Browne, who’s been through all the Cheltenham winners.
“It’s lovely (to get the record), but you feel a bit overawed as you’re talking about the legendary Fulke Walwyn.
“I’ll have a problem next year keeping him and Sprinter Sacre apart. I don’t know how we’ll solve it.”
Sizing Europe’s trainer Henry de Bromhead tried to remain sporting.
“We were eventually beaten fair and square, but things didn’t fall as you would like them through the race,” he said.
“We haven’t really discussed it but (Andrew Lynch) just said ’the last cost me the race’.”
The only serious moment for Simonsig backers came when Cotton Mill jinked out at the second-last, but he still finished seven lengths clear while Bobs Worth had to dig deeper to beat First Lieutenant in the RSA.
Both Festival winners last year, they were expected to have it all to do against Grands Crus, the red-hot favourite, but he weakened coming down the hill.
Bobs Worth only pulled two and a half lengths from First Liutenant on the run-in.
The four-timer gave Jerry McGrath his first Festival winner and Henderson said: “I think it’s the type of day we will wake up and realise it’s all a dream.”
There was also a Festival first for trainer Rebecca Curtis through 5-1 favourite Teaforthree in the Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase, while Son Of Flicka (16-1) gave Donald McCain and Jason Maguire their second winner of the week in the Coral Cup.
Willie Mullins secured his seventh Weatherbys Champion Bumper as son Patrick guided Champagne Fever (16-1) to glory.