Cheltenham round-up: National potential is clearly on show

The Druids Nephew confirmed it is set to be a major player in next month’s Crabbies Grand National after providing young trainer Neil Mulholland with a first Festival winner.

The Druids Nephew ridden by Barry Geraghty on their way to winning the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.

Mulholland’s horse was a comfortable winner of the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase under Barry Geraghty, and vindicated the trainer’s decision to move to stables in Bath.

During his riding career, he predominantly rode for the then West Witton trainer Ferdy Murphy, who said his young protégé was always likely to be a successful trainer because he was such an excellent judge of a horse’s fitness.

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It also proved to be a day to remember for owner Gary Elisia, who heads the four-strong syndicate The Stonehenge Druids – this was his stag party.

“There have been no hiding places for this horse because every race is so competitive – we’re delighted it’s all come good,” said an ecstatic Mulholland, who saddles The Young Master in today’s RSA Chase.

“This is our World Cup and this is where we want to be – it’s the big stage and we’re on it today. It’s a fantastic feeling and will take a while to sink in.

“We ran him over hurdles last time to give him a little freshen up – I told Barry he has solid handicap form and we know he stays.

“Barry’s a great big-race jockey and he proved that again today.

“We’ve been at our current yard for two-and-a-half years and we had 48 winners last year and 53 this time. We put in a new spa and flat gallop in the last year-and-a-half and you can see you are getting that little bit more out of the horses.”

Townend gets his reward in double

Paul Townend emerged from Ruby Walsh’s shadow to complete a memorable double at Cheltenham.

A former champion jockey in Ireland, Townend is understudy to Walsh at the all-conquering yard of Willie Mullins and was quick to pounce on Glens Melody in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle after stablemate Annie Power tipped up at the last.

Townend then won the concluding novice chase on the aptly-named Irish Cavalier for trainer Rebecca Curtis, who is based in west Wales.

The rider has been made several forays across the Irish Sea this season to ride for Curtis and this partnership is likely to become even more significant when 20-time champion jockey AP McCoy, luckless yesterday in his quest for a winner at his final Festival, retires next month.

As for Glens Melody, who so nearly beat the Mullins record-breaker Quevega last year, she is set to be retired to begin a breeding career.

The win completed a 64-1 four-timer for Mullins, who equalled Nicky Henderson’s record of four winners in one afternoon at the meeting, set on day two in 2012. “I’m also pleased for Paul. He is second jockey, but has gained his reward today,” said the invincible trainer.

Reveley eyes win in Glenfarclas Chase

THERE is strong Yorkshire interest in today’s Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase as in-form Saltburn rider James Reveley partners French raider Nuage D’ainay.

This unique contest also sees Yorkshire-based amateur rider Harry Bannister partner Charingworth for trainer Kim Bailey, who continues to enjoy a resurgent season.

Bannister was in the saddle when Charingworth won at Cheltenham last November.

Meanwhile, Nawton trainer David O’Meara runs Rose Of The Moon, with Jake Greenall in the saddle. With the horse almost certain not to make the cut for next month’s Crabbies Grand National, connections have been seeking alternative options.