Finally a hero Buck's trend
Ruby romps home for record 27th time as Big win helps to ease letdowns by Master Minded and Dunguib
Big Buck's was the only saving grace as the bookmakers stormed into a three-nil lead over the gasping punters at this week's Cheltenham Festival.
Ruby Walsh extended his record as the most successful rider ever at the Festival as the 5/6 favourite won the Ladbrokes World Hurdle for a second consecutive year, this time seeing off Time For Rupert by three and a quarter lengths, although still no winner has toppled the reception or relief as Quevega did on the opening day.
Carrying the colour of the Stewart Family, the failed chaser was watched anxiously by the owners with a delighted Andy Stewart reminding punters of the more important issues in life, as his son Paul was last year in a wheelchair as Big Buck's came back into the winners' enclosure.
Former Gold Cup winner War Of Attrition cut out the pace and ran a creditable race although he faded in the latter stages, while 40/1 chance Powerstation hopefully caught the eye of some each way players as he finished the race in third for the second consecutive year.
A course specialist in a sense, Eamonn O'Connell's charge rarely runs a bad race at Cheltenham and did connections proud again with his efforts yesterday.
"We've been unlucky to run up against a great stayer in Big Buck's, and it was the same problem with Black Jack Ketchum when he was a novice," said O'Connell.
"I've only been training for a year and a half, I've worked with horses over the years and decided to give it a go myself but further back I loaded bags for Aer Lingus at Shannon Airport.
"I've got 13 horses at home so to have a horse like Powerstation is unbelievable. He's a tough horse and performs well any time of the year. He's a particularly good horse over three miles on decent ground. He might go to Punchestown or for the French Champion Hurdle over 3m1f."
Of the winner, Nicholls said: "I was very nervous beforehand. Master Minded was not
good enough but we knew this horse had a big chance. He was very good today, and I think it was his best ever performance and win number three is the plan next year."
Twenty seven times-winning Festival rider Ruby Walsh said: "Time For Rupert is a fair horse and he beat me in a handicap at Aintree last year, but it's a long way from that to here.
"I wanted to have a bit of company and didn't want to be on my own too early. It's a joy to be riding him, he travelled super and is just a very good horse."
Albertas Run provided a slight shock in the Ryanair Chase as favourite Poquelin was no match for the Jonjo O'Neill-owned 14/1 chance who always looked to be going well from the turn in and gave Tony McCoy a second winner of the meeting.
The RSA Chase winner of 2008 proved yet again how vital course form is and his winning trainer said: "The ground is right for him -- it's so important -- and the trip suited him. He's a very good horse on his day and he'd have won a King George if it hadn't been for Kauto Star and then he'd have been a real hero."
Willie Mullins' J'y Vole ran a blinder of a race back in third to the obvious delight of her trainer, although Davy Condon was hit with a four-day suspension that will rule him out of the Irish Grand National meeting at Fairyhouse as the Cheltenham stewards created a bit of a stir.
Indeed, many believed that Condon had initially been hammered by Ruby Walsh on Poquelin but the officials felt that Condon had interfered with the runner-up by "pushing through a gap which never looked like being big enough" and thus suspended him four days -- April 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th.
Robert Power was also hit with a suspension over Easter weekend as the powers that be deemed he had used his whip with excessive frequency and he will miss April 1st and 3rd.
Power finished five lengths second behind Buena Vista in the Pertemps aboard the Dermot Weld-trained Prince Erik to the delight of the master of Rosewell House.
"He stayed on very well, we were delighted with his performance," said Weld. "He followed up his good run at Leopardstown, he ran a lovely race and got a cracking ride from Robbie Power. We just met a horse that was too good for us today."
Weld gave an update on Elegant Concorde: "The horses have run very well, Elegant Concorde was badly hurt in the bumper -- that was the only problem.
"I think the favourite came in on him coming up the hill and bumped him against the rails so he's a pretty sore horse."
For the third day in a row this week the crowd was up on last year with 50,119 in attendance on day three. The action came to a close with the Ladies Charity Race won by Dublin barrister Orna Madden.
I have to admit, I could only imagine what it would be like to ride around Cheltenham.
Madden partnered Prince Picasso, trained by Richard Fahey, to beat her best friend Kate Doyle by a short head in a thrilling finish.
Madden said: "That was amazing. It was something of a surreal experience and it hasn't really sunk in yet.
"To be honest I thought I had no chance today. Prince Picasso was only second choice as my original horse went lame. There was a lot of excitement and nerves today. I would just like to thank Richard Fahey and Aidan Ryan (owner) for all their help."
The 12 female riders earned over £100,000 in aid of Cancer Research UK and you never know, next year there might be a men's charity race and I will certainly be putting my name on the list for that one!