The Gavin Cromwell-trained Espoir D’Allen ran out a shock 16/1 winner of the feature race on Champion Day at The Festival™ presented by Magners, the £450,000 G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle.
The five-year-old son of Voix Du Nord travelled menacingly into contention approaching the turn for home and ran on strongly in the home straight, producing a superb leap at the last to register a bloodless 15-length success under Mark Walsh, registering his second victory at The Festival overall. Check out the latest 2020 Cheltenham offers at the signup.
The Willie Mullins-trained Melon (20/1) was back in second with a neck back to 80/1 shot Silver Streak, trained by Evan Williams in third.
In a race full of drama, favourite Apple’s Jade (7/4f) was sixth, defending champion Buveur D’Air (11/4) fell at the third hurdle and Laurina (5/2) could only finish fourth.
Winning rider Walsh commented: “Everything went well for me on Espoir D’Allen. When Buveur D’Air fell at the third hurdle, I luckily avoided the fall and got a lovely run through the whole way.
“For a five-year-old to do that against what we thought was one of the best Champion Hurdles run in the past few years, he is a right little horse. It is unbelievable.
“He is the first five-year-old since Katchit to win the race and hopefully there will be a few more Champion Hurdles in him yet.
“He travelled very strongly and he gave me a dream ride. Espoir D’Allen very uncomplicated and we were delighted when we saw the rain come this morning as he travels a lot better in this slower ground.
“Me and Gavin spoke before the race and the plan was to ride him for a place – we got a place, it was first place!
“I was in front soon enough and I heard a horse coming but only realised after the last that it was a loose horse [Buveur D’Air].
“This win will take a while to sink in. It’s back to work now but it was brilliant to land this event.”
Champion Hurdle Replay
Winning owner J P McManus was recording an eighth victory in the Champion Hurdle and this was his 55th success at The Festival in total.
Discussing the winner and Buveur D’Air’s third-flight fall, McManus commented: “It’s great to win another Champion Hurdle. I am thrilled for Gavin and Mark. It is a big moment for them.
“It was disappointing to see Buveur D’Air fall, but that was his own making. It is of course still very nice to win the race with Espoir D’Allen.
“Any time you win the Champion Hurdle you have to enjoy it.”
Latest News on Precautionary Inspection for Wednesday
Cheltenham Racecourse has called a precautionary inspection ahead of racing tomorrow, Wednesday, March 13, to take place at 8am.
Ian Renton, Regional Director for the south west region of The Jockey Club, said: “We may get 38/40mph winds at Cheltenham tomorrow which would be perfectly OK, but we don’t know when the gusts are coming or how localised they will be.
“The other day, we had a little wind here, yet a few miles away, there were massive gusts, so that’s why we feel it is sensible to call a precautionary inspection just in case we get some gales that are forecast and could affect racing.”
Explaining the potential decision to stage Wednesday’s card on Saturday instead of being added to the Thursday and Friday’s racing, Renton continued: “I think we would make that decision because we could. We have looked at this scenario for a few days and talked about the potential of this gale coming in, so we have been able to put some contingencies in place.
“Simon [Claisse, Clerk of the Course] and his team have been looking to get the necessary ambulance, doctor and veterinary cover. We have been looking at all of these areas. A lot of our catering team will heading off to Twickenham or Cardiff for the Six Nations, but we felt able to put on the meeting on Saturday if necessary.
“We also feel it is infinitely preferable to have a proper day’s racing as a Festival day rather than nine or 10 race-cards.
“If you have a ticket for tomorrow and the racing is abandoned, then you will get a full refund and we would ask people to buy again on the Saturday.
“There are lots of details to be flashed out and we are not going to reveal some of those details until we need to. Hopefully, tomorrow’s meeting is not lost and we are all guns ahead to put the meeting on tomorrow.
“If the unfortunate circumstance occurs and we do lose tomorrow’s meeting, then we will release as much details as we can about racing taking place on Saturday.
“We feel giving a Festival day a full day is right for the all owners and trainers.”