Finian's Rainbow Shines for Henderson in Champion Chase
1 Finian's Rainbow 4/1
Finian's Rainbow completed a magical afternoon for trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Barry Geraghty as he landed the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Michael Buckley, the owned of sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Finian’s Rainbow, had to endure seeing three of his horses finishing second at last year’s Cheltenham Festival but has now won a “proper race”, according to Nicky Henderson. The trainer has now extended his record of Cheltenham Festival winners to 43 with three consecutive victories on today’s card.
He said: “Michael’s been with us a very long time and he’s had a lot of good horses and a lot of near misses. Three seconds here last year looked very tough, especially when we beat him with one of our own, but now he has won a proper race.”
Finian’s Rainbow and runner-up Sizing Europe were forced to gallop around the last fence as Richard Johnson was being attended to on the landing side following a heavy fall from Wishfull Thinking.
Henderson added: “I just hope they’re all alright because they had to miss the last fence. It was a good performance - he’s beaten the reigning champion and he really was back right on song today. We saw two very good horses battle on up the hill.
“I’ve never had a day like this before but there’s a long way to go and there are two more days to come. This is very special. It doesn’t happen without a lot of people doing an enormous amount of work. I only drive the ship, there’s a huge team at home: Corky [Browne], who’s been here through all 43 Cheltenham winners, and Connor, who rides Finian’s Rainbow every day. He keeps telling me how this horse is and he’s guided me through his preparation.
“After Ascot we started to think that he might want a bit further but I don’t think he does necessarily. I know he started point-to-pointing and the Ryanair crossed our minds but we thought we’d stick to this. When he’s really good like he is now he’s a proper two-miler. He was keen early on but he’s much more relaxed this year and you can just drop him in.”
Of the need to bypass the final fence, Barry Geraghty, rider of winner Finian’s Rainbow said:
“The sun was in our eyes coming off the final bend and I didn’t see they had it dolled off, and I didn’t realise we had to go round it until Andrew [Lynch, on Sizing Europe, on Geraghty’s left] started to move out and took me with him.
“They didn’t seem to have dolled off the whole fence and there was plenty of room to jump half of it, and if Andrew had jumped it I’d have gone with him. And we’d perhaps of paid the price for things not being that clear.”
Of the race and Finian’s Rainbow, Geraghty said:
“This horse has really turned a corner since he was beaten at Ascot [by Thursday’s Ryanair contender Somersby]. But that’s what Nicky Henderson does so well. Bob’s Worth was beaten last time as well, but he knows exactly how to get them right for the day that really matters. The two horses have been coming along beautifully together in their work at home.
“In the race, my lad travelled and jumped. The leader [Sizing Europe] stretched me a little bit coming down the hill, but I was still able to get plenty of breathers into him, and fill him up before the final turn.
“I felt I had him covered from there, and being forced out round the last fence made no difference. It was a cracking race between two top-class horses, no quarter given or asked.
“When you go to Cheltenham you’re happy with one winner. It’s days like this you dream about when you’re a kid with your ponies, and when you’re an adult too, come to that.”
DE BROMHEAD SAYS LAST-FENCE DETOUR NO HELP TO EUROPE
Trainer Henry De Bromhead was magnanimous in defeat, but said an incident approaching the final fence did not help runner-up Sizing Europe.
After Wishfull Thinking fell at the fence and rolled under the rail on the first circuit it was partly dolled off. Yet as Sizing Europe under Andrew Lynch, and winner Finian’s Rainbow, the mount of Barry Geraghty, rode towards it they seemed unsure whether it was to be jumped or not.
Little more than ten metres from the wings Lynch on the inside began pulling on the right rein to go round the jump, a move that carried Geraghty with him. Horses following behind were also ridden around the fence.
De Bromhead said: “It [swerving around the fence] certainly didn’t help. We were eventually beaten fair and square, but things didn’t fall as you would like them through the race.
“Andrew felt that had he been able to jump the final fence it would have helped him. He had make a more exaggerated move than Barry, absolutely. He had hugged the inner which was great and would have helped had the fence been there to jump.
“When you are out in front you need something to keep aiming at and unfortunately we didn’t have the last - whether it cost us or not I don’t know. I’m obviously disappointed not to win, but it didn’t happen today. He ran a blinder, he always does. I’ll talk to Ann and Alan [Potts, Sizing Europe’s owners] about future plans.”
Colm Murphy, trainer of third-placed Big Zeb, who won the race two years ago, said: “I’m delighted with him. He doesn’t have the same pace as of old, but I’m pleased he battled on and it’s great to be in this place [the winner’s enclosure] once again. Given his age  they just went a gear too quick for him.
“I’d say Punchestown will be on his agenda if he comes out of this race okay.”
sportingbet.com QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE ROLL OF HONOUR
(Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase since 2007, Queen Mother Champion Chase 1980-2006, previously National Hunt Two Mile Champion Chase from when first run in 1959)
Year Winner Age/Wt Jockey Trainer Owner SP Ran
2011 Sizing Europe 9-11-10 Andrew Lynch Henry de Bromhead IRE Ann & Alan Potts 10/1 11
*Another Dolly finished second to Chinrullah, who was subsequently disqualified after failing a post-race urine test
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