Festival form so often proves paramount and there is no better equipped horse for one week in March than Bobs Worth, who emerged triumphant in a reliably thrilling Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup yesterday.
With the first, as well as the third home in former champion Long Run, trainer Nicky Henderson could not have picked a more fitting outcome to take his unprecedented haul at the meeting to a cool 50.
There was a record, too, for Bobs Worth, who is unbeaten in five visits to the course and, in adding to the RSA and the Albert Bartlett, he had already earned, became the first since the great Flyingbolt in the 1960s to secure three different Festival events in consecutive years.
Jockey Barry Geraghty bought the gelding as a yearling and made just a minor profit when selling him on at for just over £20,000 at four to Henderson and The Not Afraid Partnership, a syndicate of largely racing and business establishment friends headed by Malcolm Kimmins.
To clinch his second Gold Cup after Kicking King in 2005 hardly made the wounds feel too sore.
Surprisingly, the 11-4 favourite was making just his second appearance of the season after his victory in November’s Hennessy, as Henderson opted for racecourse gallops and sessions at home to prepare for Cheltenham, so unwilling was he to risk Bobs Worth publicly during the wet winter.
A rainy Cotswolds day was not ideal either and Geraghty had appeared slightly anxious aboard his mount as he fell a little off the pace set by Sam Waley-Cohen and Long Run.
Tony McCoy, a last-minute deputy for the injured Davy Russell, always kept Long Run in his sights aboard Sir Des Champs, while Silviniaco Conti was very much in the equation until he fell at the unforgiving downhill third last.
By then, Bobs Worth was starting to gather momentum and passed Long Run and Sir Des Champs approaching the final fence, with enough left in the tank to forge seven lengths clear. “He’s just a true professional, and such a brave horse,” said Henderson.
“Barry was trying to hang on to him, as we know he comes up the hill. He has never been beaten on it.
“Bobs Worth hasn’t run since the Hennessy and Long Run hasn’t run since the King George, so it was all down to what we did at home and we did it as a team.”
Unless Paul Nicholls has a phenomenal Grand National meeting, Henderson now surely will win the trainers’ title for the first time since 1987.
He and Geraghty also shared the joy of Sprinter Sacre’s immaculate Champion Chase victory.
“When I started in 1978, I was very lucky as dad supported me but, to him, I think he thought it was a very good way of blowing the family’s dosh,” he said.
“It all seems a long time ago now, and it’s tougher now than ever.
“At the beginning, I was post-Michael Dickinson [who trained the first five home in the Gold Cup 30 years ago] and pre-Martin Pipe and there were a couple of years when there was room for someone. We’ve had some better horses in the last couple of years and, of course, I’d like to win the title.”
Geraghty, like all of his weighing room colleagues, had his thoughts with jockey JT McNamara, who suffered a very serious injury on Thursday.
“I’d love to be happier,” he said. “All we can think about is John Thomas. We just hope and pray to God he’s OK.”
Referring to the race, he said: “I knew three out I had five or six lengths to find, but I thought I had a good chance. You have to be patient and keep nursing him because, if you put the gun to his head, you would be in trouble. You are working away in fourth gear and save fifth gear until you really need it. I put him into fifth approaching the last and went away with him.”
Our Conor put up one of the performances of the week in running away with the Triumph Hurdle.
Tony McCoy rode his first winner of the Cheltenham Festival as At Fishers Cross obliged in the Novices’ Hurdle before Alderwood took the Grand Annual Chase to give McCoy his second winner of the day.
Salsify took the spoils in a dramatic finish to the Foxhunter Chase after Oscar Delta unseated Jane Mangan when leading on the run-in, Salubrious won the Handicap Hurdle and Ted Veale took the County Hurdle.