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'Whit's a ki nd of magic

"That's three more to go ... I'm 39 and I'm getting the hang of it now!" said Paul Carberry after he won his first of the major Cheltenham Festival championship races aboard Solwhit in yesterday's Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

It appeared early yesterday morning that Carberry wouldn't even be able to ride the nine-year-old after sustaining an arm injury from a fall in Tuesday's David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle, but the Meath rider defied the likelihood and steered Charles Byrnes' stable star to a two-and-a-half length victory on what was a truly dramatic afternoon on the Cotswolds.

Byrnes himself admitted: "Paul is the right man for the horse as he has to be produced late at the last hurdle, but we were worried (about Paul) when he only had one arm up until a couple of hours ago! We were hoping he wouldn't have to give him much of a push."

Class

Solwhit had never lacked class and was a six-time Grade One winner prior to injury, and back in November 2009 he won the only race in Ireland that Hurricane Fly has run in and didn't win.

From 21 runs over hurdles, Solwhit is a winner of 12 now and he joins a growing list of potential high-class winners that will be going to the Punchestown Festival next month.

His trainer felt that Solwhit was up there with Big Buck's, who won four renewals of the World Hurdle.

"He got two-and-a-half miles really well at Aintree and Davy always thought he'd stay. He was being aimed at this race when he got injured two years ago. He's never had much luck at Cheltenham as he was coughing in the weeks running up to the Champion Hurdle and then he got a leg (injury).

"I've no doubt he would have beaten Big Buck's if he'd been here last year – the form of that race wasn't too strong."

Carberry would have been riding the Noel Meade-trained Monksland but for that well-fancied runner being ruled out just a week before the Festival.

"I've been runner-up in the Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle but I'm not usually riding the big horses in the big races so this is the top. It's great to get a Grade One win here," Carberry said.

Byrnes concluded: "He won't be going to Aintree now, it will either be Punchestown or the French Champion Hurdle for his next run."

The tally of Irish winners stood at 10 going into the concluding day and Tony Martin and Bryan Cooper combined to cause another upset with 20/1 shot Benefficient in the Jewson Novices' Chase.

The dual Grade One winner made all the running under Cooper who secured his first winner at the Festival and sent the winning New York-based owners into raptures afterwards.

Martin explained: "He didn't really handle the track here last year but that was on the other track and today was wider and suited him and he only had to come down the hill once. He's older and settled a lot better and the hood was a help to him.

"I thought his form in Ireland was good enough to be here anyway."

Cooper will have fond memories of Benefficient for the rest of his days as not only was the horse his first Cheltenham Festival winner but as a novice hurdler, he also gave Cooper his first Grade One winner.

Frame

An Irish winner of the concluding Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase was almost inevitable and although Arabella Boy was backed as if defeat was out of the question, Enda Bolger's charge never made the frame and instead it was Big Shu under Barry Cash that claimed success.

Winning for Kildare-based trainer Peter Maher on his first ever visit to Cheltenham, confidence behind the horse saw Cash get down to ride at 10st 5lbs for the first time in seven years.

When asked how confident he was Maher said: "We backed the s*** out of him – is that not enough confidence for you!

"We were giving him a run to get ready to go back for the Ladies Cup at Punchestown and he was second. The winner was favourite here today so I said if he's coming I better come as well."


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