Beware The Bear wins Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham

Jerry McGrath roars his approval as Beware The Bear wins the Ultima
Jerry McGrath roars his approval as Beware The Bear wins the Ultima

A review of the rest of the action from day one of the Cheltenham Festival where Beware The Bear claimed top honours in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Bear roars home in Ultima

Beware The Bear claimed top honours in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.

Trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Jerry McGrath, the nine-year-old was a 10-1 shot for the first handicap of the Festival in a fiercely-competitive field of 24 runners.

For much of the way it looked like Up For Review might give Willie Mullins his third winner of the afternoon as he travelled powerfully on the heels of the leaders running down the hill.

However, he made a mistake three fences from the finish and his effort soon petered out.

Beware The Bear - a winner at Cheltenham in January - was in the lead at the top of the home straight and while Sue Smith's Vintage Clouds finished strongly, Henderson's inmate had just enough in reserve to hold him at bay.

Nick Alexander's top-weight and Grand National contender Lake View Lad ran a fine race to finish third ahead of Lucinda Russell's Big River - another Scottish challenger - in fourth.

A Plus marks for Blackmore

There was a noteworthy success in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase, with A Plus Tard giving Rachael Blackmore her first Cheltenham Festival winner.

Blackmore, who is still challenging Townend for the jockeys' title in Ireland, enjoyed an emphatic triumph aboard the Henry de Bromhead-trained 5/1 favourite.

It was also a first Cheltenham winner for owners Cheveley Park Stud, who are a significant presence on the Flat and have recently increased their interest in jumping.

Blackmore said: "It is fantastic to get a winner here, as this is what every jockey dreams about. I'm so lucky to get on a horse like him.

"I can't thank Henry enough, he has put a lot of faith in me in this week and I'm grateful I can pay him back. The race went perfectly.

"On his form in in Ireland he beat Duc Des Genievres, who won the Arkle, when he won a beginners' chase at Naas so he was entitled to do that. It is great when it works out."

She added: "I've got the taste for it now. It is a phenomenal place and it's great to get a bit of what it feels like."

De Bromhead said: "That was fantastic. I'm really thrilled. It was a super ride from Rachael and that was her first Festival winner. I'm never brimming with confidence, but I'm delighted to get it for the Thompsons and Cheveley Park.

"We hoped he was better than his mark suggested. He looked tapped for toe at Punchestown the last day over two and a half. He seemed to get a fair mark so we said we would give it a go.

"I'm delighted for Rachael and I'm lucky to be associated with her. She is just a brilliant rider.

"I'm always nervous, but it is great to get a winner. I feel a bit better now than I did before the race. It would look like he would get three miles and in fairness that is what I thought after Punchestown.

"It was a case of this race if he got in or the RSA, but he got into this so we went this way and it has worked out."

Le Breuil wins NH battle

There was a thrilling climax to the concluding National Hunt Challenge Cup, with Ben Pauling's Le Breuil (14/1) narrowly outpointing Paul Nolan's Irish challenger Discorama.

Both horses and jockeys gave their all at the end of a demanding four miles and it was Le Breuil and Jamie Codd who won the argument by half a length from Discorama and Barry O'Neill.

Pauling said: "It was such a long race, it never ended! I had to ask my assistant Tom how many laps were left.

"He jumped, he travelled, it was amazing. We've had a winner here before (Willoughby Court), but this is just as good. Jamie is very special, he gave him a superb ride. He wanted to be handier, I think, but they went so quick.

"With a circuit to go I knew we had a chance as he was jumping and travelling so well.

"I knew he'd stay, but I didn't think he'd stay that well. When Discorama jumped upsides I thought 'what's going to happen here', but he was really gutsy.

"We've got one thing in mind for this horse and that is next year's National, so let's hope he gets there in one piece."


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