Ferdy Murphy is hoping Joes Edge makes the cut in the John Smith’s Grand National after getting up in the shadow of the post to win the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
He looked booked for third as Distant Thunder led Juveigneur over the last, but Davy Russell conjured a late charge out of the 50-1 outsider to land the spoils by a short head and the same from co-market leaders Juveigneur and Distant Thunder.
The former Scottish National winner was cut to 20-1 from 40s for the Aintree marathon, in which he was seventh last year, with Ladbrokes.
“I hope he gets in the National – he would be borderline. He’s got 10st 2lb, but doesn’t get a penalty for this. Hopefully, he’ll get in,” said the West Witton trainer
Former champion trainer Martin Pipe celebrated his inclusion in Cheltenham’s Hall of Fame by enjoying his first success as an owner at the Festival.
Pipe saddled a record 34 winners at the big meeting in a glorious 32-year career before handing over the reins at Nicholashayne to his son David last April.
His colours were carried to victory by Gaspara in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, giving the winning connections a bonus for following up victory in last Saturday’s Imperial Cup at Sandown.
The 9-2 joint-favourite made virtually all the running in the hands of 5lb claimer Andrew Glassonbury.
Nothing could get in a serious challenge with Altilhar taking second spot five lengths adrift just a neck ahead of Pipe’s other runner, Laustra Bad.
Pipe senior said: “I must admit David was joking to me on the gallops the other day that it would be more than a coincidence if his only winner there was with my horse.”
Nina Carberry completed a memorable family double when winning the Sporting Index Handicap Chase on Heads On the Ground.
Just 90 minutes after her brother Philip had partnered Sublimity to victory in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle, she showed her prowess in the saddle by coming out on top in the marathon over the cross-country course.
The Enda Bolger-trained Heads On the Ground, the 5-2 favourite, beat Silver Birch by three and a half lengths. Le Duc was another 12 lengths away in third place.
Back in fourth was the winner’s stablemate, six-times course winner Spot Thedifference.
“I love these cross-country races. It’s just like being at home,” said Carberry, who was winning for the second time at the Festival after Dabiroun two years ago in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.
“It’s always good to win here at the Festival – if you could have these days every day it would be great!”
Bolger said: “Nina rode a brilliant race. She took the inside there was great. I thought the ground was too soft for him but she gave him a great ride. I was also watching for ‘Spot’ and JT (McNamara) said he missed the Bank the last time and he got further back than he wanted, but he’s stayed on well for fourth.
“We’ll review things at home but I don’t think he’s finished yet. Had my two been on level weights it might have been a different story. Both of mine will now go for the La Touche Cup at Punchestown next month.”
Willie Mullins landed his 10th Festival winner as Ebaziyan shocked the masses with a 40-1 victory in the Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
The Thurles winner had tracked the 2-1 favourite Amaretto Rose through the pack and laid down his challenge between the market leader and Granit Jack over the final flight.
Davy Condon then drove the grey up to take an advantage which was extended in impressive fashion as his mount pulled away to collect by three lengths from Granit Jack, with Amaretto Rose weakening to third.
Mullins said: “Of all the horses I have brought over I didn’t think he would win and I would have been delighted if he was in the first six.”
William Hill and Stan James introduced Ebaziyan into next year’s Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle betting at 25-1, although Blue Square and Boylesports offer just 20s.