Review of the rest of the action from the final day of the Cheltenham Festival

Ch'tibello powers clear of his County Hurdle rivals
Ch'tibello powers clear of his County Hurdle rivals

Review of the rest of the action from the final day of the Cheltenham Festival as Dan Skelton won the Randox Health County Hurdle for the second successive season.

Skelton claims County - again

Dan Skelton won the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle for the third time in four years as Ch'tibello powered clear up the Cheltenham hill.

After Superb Story in 2016 and Mohaayed 12 months ago, Ch'tibello now has his name on the roll of honour. Having run in the Champion Hurdle last year, his class was not in doubt - but he had not been seen since finishing second at Aintree in December. Since then he has had a wind operation and it has obviously worked, as jockey Harry Skelton moved ominously through the field on the turn for home.

We Have A Dream and Countister still had a chance, but Ch'tibello (12/1) flew up the hill to beat top-weight We Have A Dream by a length and a half.

Dan Skelton said: "I told Harry to go out and ride the horse as if he had 10lb in hand, because I'd never had the horse so well, and everything worked out like a dream. I love the County Hurdle and it's been such an important race for us. I knew he was more than up to that level, and Harry gave him a great ride."

Harry Skelton said: "The man I ride for (brother) is a very good trainer and just as good a man. He told me we were in the right place with this horse today. He told me to go out and enjoy it and the horse gave me a great feel. He was gutsy at the end. He's such a tough horse, one of those you always look forward to riding."

The brothers are the sons of showjumping great Nick Skelton, who said: "All credit to Harry, who gave the horse an unbelievable ride. I went out on to the gallops this morning and this horse was out doing a couple of easy laps. He looked fantastic and I just thought this could be his day."

Early Doors scores in finale

Early Doors defied the burden of top weight to win the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle, going two places better than when third in the race 12 months ago.

Ridden by Jonjo O'Neill junior, the 5/1 chance stayed on strongly after coming under pressure to score by a length and a quarter from 7/2 favourite Dallas Des Pictons.

Defi Bleu (14/1) was a further four lengths back in third with Champagne Court (14/1) fourth and Coolanly (20/1) fifth.

Joseph O'Brien, who lost Sir Erec to injury in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the start of the final day of the meeting, said: "We're devastated and the owners are. It's one of those things and he seemed perfect the last couple of days. We had him checked following the stone bruise he suffered the other day and his X-rays were clean.

"Mark (Walsh, jockey) just said he jumped awkwardly and landed awkwardly and got injured.

"Early Doors has been running in Graded company and came back to handicaps today, and Jonjo has given him a great ride.

"He's very patient and he's very strong. The horses jump very well for him.

"It's been a wonderful week for JP. It won't feel that way with how today has gone but he's had a great week."

Early Doors was a fifth winner of the week for owner JP McManus, who tops the leading owner charts for the 2019 Festival with all five trained by different trainers.

Croco Bay snaps up Grand Annual

Croco Bay rolled back the years as the veteran caused a 66/1 upset in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

The 12-year-old was always close to the pace mainly set by Gino Trail, before Kielan Woods kicked on two out. It was a matter of 'catch me if you can' and Ben Case's charge was not for stopping.

Bun Doran put in a strong challenge, but Croco Bay, having only his second start since finishing fifth in this race two years ago, stuck to his guns resolutely to win by a length and a half on his fourth try.

Breland D'As was two and a half lengths away in third and top-weight Forest Bihan just another length back in fourth.

Case said: "I'm absolutely delighted. There's a lot of work gone into him.

"He had a year off the previous year. We brought him back after a long lay-off to run at Worcester. He ran very well.

"We just gave him the winter off and brought him back after Christmas and he loves it round here.

"He's been third and fifth and the one time I really did fancy him he fell at the water, which was unlike him. He's made up for it today. It's fantastic."

Croco Bay wins the Grand Annual
Croco Bay wins the Grand Annual

Edwards and Hazel relish Hill

Hazel Hill came with a well-timed run under amateur rider Alex Edwards to take the St. James's Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Chase.

The 7/2 favourite justified market support as he was produced to head long-time leader Road To Rome after the second-last fence.

Storming up the hill, the Philip Rowley-trained 11-year-old swept to victory by four lengths from Shantou Flyer, with Top Wood seven lengths away in third.

"Unbelievable. I love this horse. He's run 15 times and won 14 of them, I think," Edwards said. "We only really tested him this year. We ran him at Warwick with a lot of weight. He's done it well I'm in a very lucky position to ride these horses."

The Hazel Hill team celebrate
The Hazel Hill team celebrate


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