Thu. Mar 21st, 2019

Espoir D’Allen lands shock Champion Hurdle win

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Espoir D’Allen put in a strong performance

Espoir D’Allen gave trainer Gavin Cromwell a first Cheltenham Festival triumph with victory in the Champion Hurdle.

The 16-1 chance, ridden by Mark Walsh, stormed clear as the leading three runners failed to make an impact.

Two-time winner Buveur D’Air fell at the third hurdle while mares Apple’s Jade and Laurina faded in the final shake-up.

Melon (20-1) was second ahead of Silver Streak (80-1).

Espoir D’Allen, like Buveur D’Air owned by millionaire JP McManus, becomes only the second five-year-old to win the race in 34 years.

It is the eighth time McManus has won the race.

Cromwell, based in County Meath in Ireland, is a farrier by trade and before he concentrated on training he counted leading trainer Gordon Elliott among his clients.

And he was speechless at landing the biggest win of his career.

“I am shell-shocked,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “He absolutely skated up, I am so lost for words. It’s just unbelievable.

“He’s been winning Grade Threes this year, so to win this is fantastic.”

Walsh praises Espoir D’Allen

Walsh earned his first Cheltenham win on board the Willie Mullins-trained Bleu Berry in last year’s Coral Cup and has regularly ridden for McManus, but this was the biggest win of his career.

“For a five-year-old to do that against what we thought was one of the best Champion Hurdle fields for the past few years is unbelievable,” said the 32-year-old.

“I was behind Barry [Geraghty, on Buveur D’Air] when he fell and luckily I wasn’t in his way. I just travelled everywhere.

“I was delighted when the rain came this morning because he goes so well in it.

“I was hopeful. I was riding for a place to be honest, but from the third-last Ruby [Walsh, on Laurina] missed it. He just took me to the second-last and was in front plenty soon enough.

“I heard a horse coming and only realised after the last it was a loose horse.

“For a five-year-old to do that is very good.”

Mixed fortunes for Mullins and Walsh

Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh made a perfect start to the day with a 41-1 double thanks to wins for Klassical Dream (6-1) in the Supreme Novices Hurdle and Duc Des Genievres (5-1) in the Arkle Chase.

But their hopes of a treble were ended in dramatic fashion in the Mares Hurdle where the odds-on favourite and last year’s winner Benie Des Dieux fell at the final hurdle when well clear.

It was an uncanny repeat of the circumstances in which the same owner Rich Ricci’s Annie Power fell at the last hurdle four years ago and it left Roksana, trained by Dan Skelton and ridden by his brother Harry, to win by two and a quarter lengths.

Check out the latest horse racing results

Cheltenham Festival: Espoir D’Allen lands shock Champion Hurdle win

Espoir D’Allen gave trainer Gavin Cromwell a first Cheltenham Festival triumph with victory in the Champion Hurdle. The 16-1 chance, ridden by Mark Walsh, stormed clear as the leading three runners failed to make an impact. Two-time winner Buveur D’Air fell at the third hurdle while mares Apple’s Jade and Laurina faded in the final shake-up.

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