Carrickboy puts in a bold leap on his way to festival gloryPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Byrne Group shock as 50-1 Carrickboy strikes
Report: Cheltenham Festival, Thursday
Byrne Group Plate (Grade 3) 2m5f, New Course, 5yo+
A GOOD season turned into a great one for Venetia Williams after 50-1 shot Carrickboy ran his rivals ragged with a brave front-running performance under Liam Treadwell.
The race had drama before it had even begun, with the fancied Cantlow withdrawn at the start with a bloody nose and moments later Mad Moose refusing to race.
None of that mattered to Carrickboy and Treadwell, who jumped enthusiastically into the lead.
Hunt Ball, sporting some Paddy Power art work on his quarters, was a bit sluggish in the early stages and was issued a reminder by Nick Scholfield in the early stages.
As the race started to unravel, Carrickboy was still going powerfully but moving equally as well was favourite Ballynagour and the in-from Vino Griego.
Unfortunately for favourite-backers, Ballynagour's effort was short lived and it became apparent that Carrickboy's biggest rivals would be Vino Griego and Ballynagour's stablemate Matuhi.
Matuhi took a heavy fall at the last leaving Vino Griego to chase and close on Carrickboy but he was ultimately fighting a losing battle.
The victory signalled a return to racing's biggest stage for Grand National-winning jockey Treadwell, who admitted he'd considered walking away from the sport with rides hard to come by.
He said: "About 18 months ago I thought I was going to have to walk away from it all. I was treking round the country struggling to make ends meet but that's behind me now.
"I suppose after the National win I'd got complacent but Ventia said there was a place for me here and I've been given some wonderful opportunities."
Williams added: "With the Irish and Nicky [Henderson] winning everything it's nice to sneak one through. Coming here, I thought most of my horses had done their handicapping winning earlier in the season."
Tartak, who was up with the pace early on, stayed on for third, with Hunt Ball fourth and Walkon fifth.
There was a sad postscript as Matuhi was discovered to have suffered a spinal injury and had to be put down.
The stewards inquired into why Hunt Ball raced with unauthorised sponsorship letters on his hindquarters. After interviewing connections, they referred the matter to the British Horseracing Authority.