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SportCheltenham Festival 2024: Captain Guinness capitalises on El Fabiolo slip to win...

Cheltenham Festival 2024: Captain Guinness capitalises on El Fabiolo slip to win Champion Chase

Captain Guinness capitalised on a mistake from red-hot favourite El Fabiolo to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the feature race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.

El Fabiolo went off at 2/9 but saw his hopes dashed when he clipped a fence with his back left leg with jockey Paul Townend opting to pull him up.

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Edwardstone took up the running and seemed to be heading to victory only to fall at the penultimate fence.

It was left to Captain Guinness (17/2) and Gentleman De Mee (16/1) to fight it out with Rachael Blackmore guiding the former home to deny trainer Willie Mullins a 100th festival victory, although he still had a remarkable day.

Funambule Sivola was a 100/1 shot in third.

Blackmore told ITV Racing: “He [Captain Guinness] travelled incredible and jumped really well. It is incredible. So pleased for his owner. He has been knocking on the door.

“It is incredible to win this, just incredible and so happy to do it on this horse. He always runs his race. He is enthusiastic.”

Owner Declan Landy added on BBC Radio 5 Live: “Unbelievable, I’m shocked, lost for words.

“We were hoping to be second like we were last year. With the last run we were confident of a good run – but that’s unbelievable.”

Mullins may have been disappointed by the outcome in the Champion Chase but he had a race to remember in the opener today, his horses placing one to five in the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle.

Ballyburn led home the quintet with Townend on board as the 1/2 favourite with Jimmy Du Seuil (66/1) second and Ile Atlantique third at 9/2.

Mullins told Racing TV: “That was some performance. For Paul to look around turning for home must have been because of the feel the horse was giving him. I was afraid we were going to have an Annie Power moment at the last because he went into it so fast.

“To come up the hill like that, wow what a performance!”

Ballyburn’s victory gave Mullins win number 98 at the festival and he moved to 99 immediately as Fact To File cruised home in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at 8/13 ahead of Monty’s Star (13/2) and Giovinco (40/1).

Jockey Mark Walsh said: “This is a class horse, he’s something else. 

“He jumped and travelled so well. I didn’t want to get there too soon because he was stepping up in trip but he winged the last and just galloped on from there.”

Mullins had a rare blank in the Coral Cup as Langer Dan (13/2) defended his title from Ballyadam (13/2), Shanbally Kid (12/1) and Lucky Place (25/1).

Trainer Harry Skelton told ITV Racing: “This was 12 months’ planning, but we didn’t have it all plain-sailing. He’s come alive in the last few weeks and when he was getting bumped and banged around there, he was loving it.

“The more you put him in the race the easier he becomes to ride and get competitive. The more he was knocked about the more he thrived.”

There was more Skelton success in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase with Unexpected Party (12/1) finishing strongly to take the win from Libberty Hunter (6/1), Path D’oroux (10/1) and Sa Fureur (4/1 fav).

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.
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