Silviniaco Conti, fourth in the Gold Cup despite being in front over the last, made no mistake yesterday, leading from start to finish to see off Dynaste by a length and a half.
Yet even in the euphoria of victory, jockey Noel Fehily had mixed emotions.
“He is a very good horse and he deserved to win today. I am still very disappointed that we got beat in the Gold Cup,” the Cork man said.
“I didn’t sleep a lot that night and I’m still a bit sick that he was beaten at Cheltenham having jumped the last in front. I have never been as disappointed as I was when I got beat in the Gold Cup.”
Trainer Paul Nicholls said: “To me he has always been an out-and-out stayer and that’s why we rode him positively today. He can’t have had too hard a race at Cheltenham because three or four days afterwards he was fully recovered.”
Dynaste’s trainer David Pipe had no complaints. “He was beaten by a better horse on the day and there are no excuses.”
Fehily was narrowly denied a big-race double as Rock On Ruby, back over hurdles after an aborted chasing campaign, was beaten a head by The New One in a frantic finish to the Aintree Hurdle with the Willie Mullins-trained Diakali a close third.
The trip stretched The New One’s stamina but after his luckless run in the Champion Hurdle, when Our Conor’s fall saw him haemorrhage ground before finishing like a train to take third, the six-year-old deserved his victory.
“He just lacked a bit of sparkle this afternoon,” jockey Sam Twiston-Davies admitted. “He’s probably a two-miler in truth. This trip probably stretches him a bit. It’s been a frustrating season but it’s nice to get a Grade 1 on the board.”
After yesterday’s encouraging effort, Harry Fry will now target Rock On Ruby at next year’s Champion Hurdle.
Fry said: “Noel said to stick to two miles over hurdles next year. He will be a year older but on that run why not try for the Champion Hurdle?”
Willie Mullins said of Diakali: “It was a good run and when he learns to settle he will be better again. We will look at Punchestown for him now.”
Irish eyes were smiling after the opener as Guitar Pete, under a masterful ride from Paul Carberry and despite hitting an in-running high of 299-1 with Betfair, led home an Irish 1-2 in the Injured Jockeys Fund 50th Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle.
The 13/2 shot, third behind Tiger Roll in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, was ridden with more restraint than usual before coming late to thwart the Davy Russell-ridden Clarcam by a length and three quarters to the delight of trainer Dessie Hughes.
“We knew he jumps and stays but that was a great ride – typical Paul Carberry,” Hughes said. “We’ve made plenty of use of him in the past so the plan was to hold him up until they reached the straight as he’s been doing most of the donkey work in his races this season. We’ve always known he jumps and stays well but he’s shown a great turn of foot.”
Guitar Pete’s victory provided some consolation for Hughes after the sad demise of Our Conor last month.
“That’s life,” Hughes said. “We might have another (big talent) coming along now. It’s possible (he’ll go to Punchestown). He hasn’t told us he’s had enough anyway.”
Clarcam’s trainer Gordon Elliott said: “He looked as though he had a chance at the second last but it is a long run-in and I am thrilled with him. He will be some chaser to look forward to next season.”
In the fourth and final Grade 1 of the day an inspired AP McCoy steered the Alan King-trained Uxizandre to victory over Oscar Whisky and Arkle winner Western Warhorse in the Pinsent Masons Manifesto Novices’ Chase.
McCoy, later handed a four-day suspension (April 17-21) for excessive use of the whip on Diakali, said: “He’s much better on a left-handed track, which limits him a bit, but the Ryanair Chase could be the long-term goal.”