Alderwood (right) gives Ireland a record 14th winner of the weekPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Alderwood leads home McManus one-two
Report: Cheltenham Festival, Friday
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup 2m110y, 5yo+
ALDERWOOD, winner of the County Hurdle at Cheltenham 12 months ago, followed up with victory in the final race of the 2013 festival after leading home Kid Cassidy for a JP McManus one-two.
A whole country would have cheered on the heavily-backed 3-1 favourite as Alderwood, the only Irish-trained runner in the field, gained a success that gave Ireland their biggest festival haul of 14 winners, eclipsing their previous best of 13 in 2011. It also left the scores for the week at Ireland 14 and Britain 13.
Winning trainer Tom Mullins said: "To give Ireland the deciding victory of the week, it's probably the first time I've done anything for Ireland in my life!"
Ridden with supreme confidence by Tony McCoy in mid-division, Alderwood stuck to the inside for the majority of the race and when a gap up the rail appeared approaching three out, the champion jockey never looked in any danger as he made inroads on Kid Cassidy's lead.
With the last fence bypassed due to the first circuit fall of Kumbeshwar, who in turn brought down Marshal Zhukov, the closing stages of the race were fought out on the flat.
And while 12-1 shot Kid Cassidy showed substance to go with his style in second, he proved no match for Alderwood, who sauntered home by three and a quarter lengths. Former winner Oiseau De Nuit (33-1) took third ahead of Drumshambo (20-1).
Mullins added: "As he'd won last year we always wanted to come back but he was slow to come to hand in the autumn, he just wasn't training properly.
"He was handier last year but we are still a novice so AP gave him a chance. He won easy enough. He's quick, he's brave and he's clever."
Nicky Henderson had to settle for second place in the race named in honour of his late father.
"With six runners, we were definitely trying to win it," said the trainer.
"It's a shame as you all know I'd have loved to have won the race but I'm delighted JP has had the first two home as he puts so much into the sport.
"It was encouraging to see Kid Cassidy jump so well and now he's finally putting it all together, he could pick up a couple of nice races."