Cheltenham: Coneygree, ridden by Nico de Boinville, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on his first appearance in jump racing's blue riband event Friday. The Mark Bradstock-trained 7-1 shot fought off a late challenge from Djakadam, ridden by Ruby Walsh, who finished second at 10-1, and Road To Riches, the 8-1 chance, who was third.
Jonjo O'Neill-trained Holywell finished fourth at the showpiece event in the four-day Cheltenham National Hunt Festival. The eight-year-old Coneygree, running for just the fourth time over fences, pushed out for an early lead and dominated the 22-jump field as the favourites fell by the wayside.
"I always knew I could do it, but good horses make good jockeys," said de Boinville after Coneygree became the first novice to win the race since 1974. "I'm just so grateful to the owners for keeping the faith, because there are so many big-name jockeys out there who I respect and who could and would have ridden him but they kept the faith in me. I'll be eternally grateful to them." Trainer Bradstock, speaking to Channel 4, said: "He's a fantastic horse. We've done it before in smaller races and we will still keep doing it, but it's fantastic to do it on the big stage. "The forecast was so up and down, the rain was meant to be coming on Tuesday, but luckily we made the right decision. It's brilliant."
The winning trainer's wife Sara Bradstock, daughter of racing great Lord John Oaksey, who died in 2012, said: "People kept quoting stats at us, saying we shouldn't run him in the race as he was a novice but it was an open Gold Cup and we knew he had a chance.
"Dad's looking down on us - it is just amazing. All of these people who said the horse is just a novice but he knows how to run and knows how to jump." Irish trainer Willie Mullins just missed out on a first Gold Cup win with Djakadam after enjoying a sensational meeting with six winners on the first three days. Former winner Tony McCoy finished ninth on Carlingford Lough, two places behind pre-race favourite Silviniaco Conti, with former winners Bobs Worth (2013) and Lord Windermere (2014) falling off at the back.
Silviniaci Conti fell in 2013 and finished fourth last year, but was the 3-1 favourite after winning his second King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. It was 19-time champion jockey McCoy's last Gold Cup before retirement - he won it twice before with Synchronised in 2012 and Mr Mulligan in 1997.