Sprinter Sacre put up an heroic performance to regain his Champion Chase crown, seeing off one of the Festival hotpots, Un De Sceaux, in the process.
A winner at the Festival twice before, he suffered a serious injury setback two years ago but returned to the winner’s enclosure this season.
It was a remarkable training performance by Nicky Henderson to get the 10-year-old to show some of his old spark again, let alone win a Champion Chase 12 months after being pulled up in the same race.
Seeing him win was a truly magical moment.
What was billed as potentially one of the best duels of this year’s Festival never materialised, as both More Of That and No More Heroes ran disappointingly in the RSA Chase.
Having looked the most exiting staying novices on their respective sides of the Irish Sea, neither finished in the first two in this three-mile contest.
Barry Geraghty never seemed happy aboard the Jonjo O’Neill-trained More Of That, who was later reported to have burst a blood, while No More Heroes suffered a tendon injury.
Victory went to Blaklion, from the Nigel Twiston-Davies stable.
‘‘It wasn’t an easy decision, I wouldn’t have waited this long if it was. If you get it wrong you’d be kicking yourself for six months, but Gordon has him in top shape and now we go out to prove all the doubters wrong who say he doesn’t handle Cheltenham.’’
OUCH: Richard Johnson crashes into a hedge after parting company with Balthazar King in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham yesterday. Picture: Seb Daly / Sportsfile
Davy Russell’s love affair with the Cheltenham Festival continues as he was again in the winner’s enclosure yesterday. The Youghal rider’s victory in the Coral Cup aboard Diamond King was his 16th at this meeting.
Not only that, but since his first success on Native Jack back in 2006, the dual champion jockey has ridden a winner at every Festival since.
With Yanworth, More Of That, Un De Sceaux and Josies Orders all getting turned over, it was very much a day to forget for punters.
All four came to the Festival carrying the favourite’s tag, but came up short in their respective races. Punters were left reeling with the bookies, hammered on day one, recouping most of their losses.
Alan Shearer was in attendance to watch the Bumper. He’s involved in the syndicate that owns the mare, Augusta Kate, who finished down the field in a race won by Ballyandy.
Also spotted was former Ireland boss Steve Staunton.
Vautour runs in the Ryanair Chase following the decision to switch from the Gold Cup.
Having been collared on the line in the King George, he makes the step back in trip, and that could see him rewarded with another win at the Cotswolds.
One of the finest horses in training, he’ll take some beating if he is anywhere close to his best.
Bristol De Mai might be vying for favouritism in the opening JLT Novices Chase but, beaten twice already this season, he can be opposed.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained gelding may have totted up four wins already this campaign, but the majority of his wins have come on softer conditions than today.
This will undoubtedly be his biggest test to date, with Garde Le Victoire, who has already accounted for him this season, and a whole host of others more than capable of putting it up to him.