Saint Roi landed a gamble to continue a superb Festival for connections with a convincing victory in the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Saint Roi may have been lightly-raced, but money talked and the JP McManus-owned five-year-old delivered in style.
Coming to the last, Embittered held every chance, as did a few others, but the Barry Geraghty-ridden Saint Roi was going best of all and the 11-2 favourite pulled away to win decisively by four and a half lengths.
Willie Mullins also saddled the runner-up, Aramon, with Gordon Elliott’s Embittered a head away third and another of the Mullins’ team, Buildmeupbuttercup, another head back in fourth.
Riding his fifth winner of the week, Gearghty said: “He was electric, for a horse with little experience, the pace they went, he was very good. Willie was sweet on him and he’s not a bad judge.
“It’s what you dream of, you come here and one winner is all you want. It’s brilliant when they keep coming. There’s no doubt about it, it’s a privileged position to ride such good horses for good people and it is a pleasure.
“It’s a fun game in this sport, I enjoy it.”
Mullins said: “I enjoyed that a bit more than the last one (fortunate victory in Triumph Hurdle). It was a proper race – he is a good horse. We were very lucky to win the last one.
“Barry is riding out of his skin. I said to JP on Monday evening we might have one for you. This fellow did a lovely bit of work during the week and I think he said to me he wouldn’t back him in case he stopped him. He did what he showed me in his final bit of work the other day, which was way better than before, and Barry executed the job fantastic.
“They all arrived down at the second last with fighting chances and you wouldn’t know which one to back. He is better than that, but he was handicapped nicely – I thought we had enough ammunition for the Supreme, but there we are.”
Chosen Mate was the punters’ friend as he justified strong market support to lift the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.
Gordon Elliott’s seven-year-old cruised into the lead at the third-last under Davy Russell and held a clear advantage at the final fence.
He got in a bit tight to the obstacle, but it made no difference and the 7-2 favourite powered up the hill to win by a length and three-quarters from Eclair De Beaufeu.
Us And Them was three and a half lengths back in third, with Greaneteen a neck away in fourth.
Elliott said: “He definitely could win a graded race. I said if you can get him in a rhythm over his first four fences he will win. Thankfully he won.
“Robbie Power was going to ride him, but then Davy decided he wanted to ride him and I’m thrilled he rode him, as he is a brilliant jockey and I’m lucky to have him.”
Indefatigable got up in the final strides to give trainer Paul Webber his first Festival winner in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
Last in the early stages, Indefatigable (25-1) weaved her way through the field and she was only fifth at the final flight.
Column Of Fire came down when holding every chance after Great White Shark made a lot of the running.
Pileon looked like capitalising on Column Of Fire’s dramatic exit, but Indefatigable had the rail to help her and she inched her way to glory by a short head in the hands of Rex Dingle to defy top-weight.
Great White Shark was three lengths away in third and Happygolucky and another neck back in fourth.
Webber said: “What a great thrill. Everything went wrong for her and she still managed to battle up the hill.
“She is an amazing filly. We’ve had plenty of seconds here in the World Hurdle, County Hurdle and Champion Bumper, so I don’t mind waiting until the last opportunity (of the week).
“Time For Rupert nearly got us here in the World Hurdle and we have had two bumper horses finish second and we have been second in the County Hurdle. This horse has as big a heart as anything we have trained.”
It was also a Festival first for Dingle, who said: “I can’t believe it to be honest. Paul had her in brilliant nick.
“This is massive, surreal. I will look back in years to come and probably say I didn’t appreciate it enough, so I’m trying to appreciate it now, and as much as I can. It won’t sink in for a few hours. I’m blurry visioned now.”