Holywell on his way to an impressive victory in the Pertemps FinalPICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Holywell storms to Pertemps Final glory
Report: Cheltenham Festival, Thursday
Pertemps Final (Handicap Hurdle) (Listed) 3m, New Course, 5yo+
HOLYWELL sprung a 25-1 surprise by upstaging his better-fancied stable companion Shutthefrontdoor to land this fiercely contested handicap under Richie McLernon.
Sharpened by first-time blinkers, the Jonjo O'Neill-trained six-year-old cruised into the lead between the final two flights and, although idling up the hill, held off Captain Sunshine, with Jetson third and Shutthefrontdoor fourth.
O'Neill, greeting his first winner of this year's meeting, said: "Everything went right for Holywell this time. The headgear obviously helped, and Richie, who is a great lad, gave him a good ride."
He added: "This is a magical place. Everyone wants to have a winner here, whether it's an owner, jockey, trainer or groom. It's a great feeling to have one, and it's a real team victory for the yard."
The trainer was also happy with 6-1 shot Shutthefrontdoor's
performance. "He jumped a bit novicey at a few, but I didn't see any excuses," he said. "He's a lovely horse to look forward to next year.
McLernon, a key part of O'Neill's outfit, was overjoyed by the
success. "Last year I had my first festival winner, as did Campbell Gillies. He was looking down on me today - cheers Campbell," he said.
"The blinkers helped him travel. Holywell jumped really well, and battled all the way to the line. It's a long way home when you're in front, but he's tough. This second winner feels even better than the
Holywell, who had occupied a good position from the start as Junior set the pace from Berties Dream, moved closer at the top of the hill, with McLernon clearly happy with what he had underneath him.
The son of Gold Well quickly opened up a six-length advantage on the long run to the final flight and, although Emma Lavelle's Captain Sunshine was rapidly reducing the deficit close home, there was never a moment when Holywell appeared in the slightest danger of defeat. He held on by one and a half lengths, with Jetson a further half-length away in third.
Jessica Harrington, trainer of Jetson, said: "It's not totally commiserations, though it is a question of what if. We'll look at Aintree for him, a flat track and three miles will suit him there."
The 4-1 favourite Sam Winner proved a big disappointment, never featuring after an early mistake.
Davy Russell, who finished eighth on Stonemaster, was stood down for the rest of the day after the race with a spontaneous punctured lung and was taken to Cheltenham Hospital.
Paddy Brennan, the rider of Captain Sunshine, was handed a nine-day ban for using whip above the permitted level on the runner-up. The ban includes the entire Grand National meeting at Aintree.
Robbie Power, rider of third home Jetson, picked up a two-day whip suspension.