BARRY GERAGHTY proved the doubters wrong after recovering from a badly broken leg to partner Defi Du Seuil to Cheltenham glory.
Many feared that the 40-year-old, retained rider to owner JP McManus, would hang up his saddle after suffering a horrific double leg break at Aintree’s Grand National meeting in April.
But now he can dream of further big race success on the Philip Hobbs-trained Defi Du Seuil who outbattled Politologue at the end of the Grade Two Shloer Chase.
This horse already has two Cheltenham Festival wins to his name – the 2017 Triumph Hurdle and this year’s JLT Novices Chase – and it will not be a surprise if he completes a hat-trick next March.
The question will be whether he sticks to two miles for the Queen Mother Champion Chase – next month’s Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown over the minimum trip is the next target – or is campaigned for the mid-distance Ryanair Chase over two miles and five furlongs.
“I love this fella but this is such a great game, it’s great fun,” reflected a mud-splattered Geraghty after this two-mile test won in recent years by the now retired steeplechasing superstar Sprinter Sacre. “Defi Du Seuil was so brave at the second last – deadly, deadly – and was good at the last as well. Good horses get you up in the morning.
“I didn’t have an option at the second last, it was the stride I was on, so he needed to come for me and he was brave. I would say he got a little frightened in the process but he didn’t show at the last, when he was good and committed.
“He is brilliant, just a great attitude, and Philip does a brilliant job with him.
“For a horse who isn’t that big, he has a lot of scope and a lot of heart.”
This was echoed by the resurgent Hobbs who said: “Although he obviously stays very well he’s got loads of pace.
“And he’s very brave isn’t he? He does dig deep.
“I think we’ll take it race by race but I should think it will be the Tingle Creek next.
“He’s proven today he can do well over two miles, and Sandown is stiffer than here and will probably suit him better.”
A far from disgraced third was the veteran Simply Ned who was running in this race for a sixth successive year.
Trained in Cumbria by Nicky Richards, the 12-year-old was ridden by in-form North Yorkshire jockey Brian Hughes who was delighted with the run.
“My horse has run a nice race, he was giving the winner 3lb so had no right to beat him or Politologue. He is a 12-year-old now but went around there like a five-year-old,” said Hughes.
“I am sure we will go to Leopardstown now and try and win the Grade One over Christmas that he has won for the last two seasons.”
Richards added: “That will put him right for Leopardstown now – he’s a proper racehorse.”
Harambe bounced back to form with a game display to land the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Having disappointed on his seasonal debut five weeks ago, Alan King’s six-year-old got up on the line under Tom Bellamy after Lizzie Kelly attempted to make all the running on Monsieur Lecoq.
She did not give up the lead without a fight in this frantic four-way finish, but it was Harambe who crossed the line a neck to the good.
Bellamy said: “I’m absolutely chuffed for the horse as much as anything. We’ve always known he had plenty of ability, but we were just waiting for it to come right on the day and it has today.
“It’s massive. I had a winner at the last Cheltenham meeting in October and that meant a lot, but a big race like today, a Grade Three, is great.
“It was his first big handicap, and I thought, ‘ride him to run well and anything else is a bonus’. He was running well and the bonus happened.
“Today was a big step forwards for him, so hopefully it is onwards and upwards.”
On a murky and wet afternoon, Hang In There made most of the running to win for the second time over the smaller obstacles in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle.
The Emma Lavelle-trained horse had enough in hand over Pacify whose co-owner is the Duchess of Cornwall.