It was another win for the punters as favourite Sir Gerhard came home in dismal conditions at Cheltenham Festival. In the driving rain, Willie Mullins got his 80th Festival win as Paul Townend timed his charge to perfection to the delight of the crowd.
This was his first trip over two miles yet he proved he could deal with the step up and Townend was delighted with his ride, having been under pressure on the well-backed favourite.
"He showed his class to be as keen as he was. That's the best he's ever jumped on the course," he said at the finish. But this was a tough race in testing conditions that pushed this wonderful horse to the max.
Watdeyawant and outsider Hemlock went to the front over the first fence but the field was tightly packed as it looked to deal with the tough conditions. Sir Gerhard tracked Journey with Me in the midfield as they set out at a steady pace.
Journey With Me took the initiative with six to go but Sir Gerhard followed him around the rail as Hemlock attempted to keep pace. Sir Gerhard was lurking, looking to strike at the right moment as we approached three to go. It turned out to be the perfect decision.
Up the hill it was a battle between Journey With Me and Sir Gerhard who ran together as they pushed towards the finish but it was the favourite who battled through to get himself in front. At the final hurdle, Journey With Me fell with Rachael Blackmore on board and Three Stripe Life attempted to put pressure on the leader, but Willie Mullins secured his 80th win of the Festival.
It was another win for the favourite as he came through in dismal conditions, but the biggest roar came as Journey With Me got back to his feet. Sir Gerhard may have got to the finishing post first, but Journey With Me is a true champion, even if he couldn’t quite beat the favourite.
It’s another win for the punters early on, and the bookies are on the back foot!