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Solwhit beats Celestial Halo - Cheltenham 14/3/13

Solwhit (far side): "picked up well since the weekend," says Charles Byrnes

  PICTURE: John Grossick (  

Solwhit and Quevega both chasing history

TODAY Solwhit bids to join the likes of Istabraq and Sprinter Sacre as a winner at all three big spring festivals in the same season, while Quevega bids to complete the Cheltenham/ Punchestown double for the fourth straight year, it should be a cracker.

It seems Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown festival trebles are like buses. You wait 14 years for one, and then two days later the possibility of another comes trotting along.

Sprinter Sacre's hat-trick was completed in workmanlike fashion on Tuesday, becoming the first horse since the legendary Istabraq in 1999 to complete the feat, and 48 hours later Solwhit has the chance to join a very elite club.

It is company he certainly belongs in, maybe not on official figures, but in the hearts and minds of the people that love racing he epitomises all that is good just as much as either of the superstars he is bidding to emulate.

It won't be easy. As his trainer Charles Byrnes said: "It's only since the weekend that Solwhit has picked up well after being a bit flat after his win at Aintree. That run seemed to take more out of him than Cheltenham although he appeared to have an easier race. I could have done with another week with him, but I'm happy enough to let him take his chance although it looks a very hot renewal."

Endearingly tough, classy, game and versatile, a run of four consecutive defeats at the hands of another great of the game in Hurricane Fly - all by three and a half lengths or less - saw him battle his way into the affections of fans.

Many times during his near two years out with injury, retiring 'the nearly horse' must have been considered, but a bit of Charles Byrnes magic, and a step up in trip, have seen him rise to stand on the edge of greatness in his own right.

So often derogatorily referred to with statements such as "all he's beaten is Solwhit," time has proven what it must have taken to get so close, so often, to Hurricane Fly, and come 5.30pm at Punchestown Solwhit has the chance to finally, and fully, receive all the deserved praise for a fantastic career, should he of course see off Quevega and his five other rivals.


Quevega: "entitled to come on from Cheltenham," says Ruby Walsh

  PICTURE: Martin Lynch (  

The Cheltenham/Punchestown double has been completed far more often, including by Quevega for the last three years, and as she goes in search of a fifth, and her own bit of history, she faces her toughest task to date.

Her last defeat in Britain or Ireland came at the hands of Solwhit and Ruby Walsh is under no illusions how difficult today's rival will be to beat. "She's in good nick and is entitled to have come on from her win at Cheltenham," he said. "Solwhit will be a tough rival but I'm very happy with the mare."

Also in the line up is Reve De Sivola, a dual Graded winner this season since reverted to hurdles, and Cheltenham Festival winners Fiveforthree and Holywell. The line-up is completed by Zaidpour and Whatuthink.

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