At Fishers Cross: Tony McCoy gains first win of the week on his 16th ridePICTURE: Getty Images
McCoy off the mark as At Fishers Cross scores
Report: Cheltenham Festival, Friday
Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Registered As The Spa Novices' Hurdle Race) (Grade 1) 3m, 4yo
AT THE 16th time of asking, champion jockey Tony McCoy got on the scoresheet at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival as At Fishers Cross reeled off a five-timer in emphatic style.
The success was also a first of the week for JP McManus but the mood in the winner's enclosure was sombre given the leading owner's link to jockey JT McNamara, who remains in hospital a following a terrible fall the previous day.
"It is always nice to have a winner in Cheltenham, to have runners here and to be here, but the day is marred with sadness for JT and his family," McManus said.
"We feel guilty for being here, we just wish we could do something."
McCoy echoed the sentiments paid by his boss, saying: "It's very hard to be happy after what happened yesterday to John Thomas McNamara and Campbell Gillies won this race last year and he is not here. It is very tough."
As the rain fell in the build-up to the race, punters started to latch on to the Rebecca Curtis-trained six-year-old, forcing his price into 11-8, and he won like a favourite should with a strong finishing surge up the hill.
Runner-up African Gold (9-2) represented the major danger to the winner as he travelled well straightening up for home but he could not matched the change of gear shown by At Fishers Cross, who prevailed despite being less than fluent at his hurdles. Third place went to the Ruby Walsh-ridden Inish Island at 13-2.
Curtis, gaining her second festival victory a year on from Teaforthree's success in the National Hunt Chase, said: "We were delighted when we saw the rain. We were delighted to have a winner last year but to win a Grade 1 it has upped our game a bit. It is just amazing."
William Hill cut At Fishers Cross to 8-1 (from 14) for the 2014 World Hurdle after his win. Four-time winner Big Buck's is the firm's 4-1 favourite.