Western Warhorse puts in a mighty leap in the Racing Post ArklePICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Warhorse battles to
pip Fever in Arkle shock
Report: Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday
Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase (Grade 1) 2m, 5yo+ Old Course
JUBILATION turned to shock at Cheltenham on Tuesday as 11-4 joint-favourite Champagne Fever was beaten in the final stride by 33-1 outsider Western Warhorse.
Punters had been cheering Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh and Rich Ricci after Vautour landed the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle but it was the bookies that were celebrating after the second race of the meeting.
Sporting a first-time hood, Western Warhorse was always close to the pace-setting Champagne Fever, who jumped magnificently in front as he sought a third successive win at the festival.
The same cannot be said for Rock On Ruby, whose race was effectively over after three fences when he belted the obstacle jolting rider Noel Fehily forward in the saddle. The fact the partnership remained intact is credit to Fehily.
Champagne Fever was giving everything he could in front and even with Valdez, Trifolium and Dodging Bullets travelling smoothly behind them it was always going to be a battle to pass him.
Running down to the final fence, Champagne Fever had his rivals hard at work to catch him, except outsider Western Warhorse who emerged as a serious, if unexpected, challenger to the leader.
Inspired by the chance of victory, Tom Scudamore flung the David Pipe-trained Western Warhorse at the final fence and he came running hard at Champagne Fever.
A tremendous battle up the Cheltenham hill ensued with Champagne Fever valiantly fighting for everything and Western Warhorse inching him back. The line came too late for backers of the Willie Mullins-trained runner.
Pipe said: "He's always been a bit of a character. He jumped very well at Doncaster and we put the hood on to calm him down. The plan was to make all but Tom [Scudamore] rode a canny race and his last two jumps sealed the race."
Scudamore added: "I still can't quite believe it. Roger [Brookhouse, owner] said to drop him back to two miles and it was a great thrill."
Western Warhorse had been matched at 1,000-1 in-running for the Racing Post Arkle.
Despite defeat, trainer Willie Mullins was pleased with Champagne Fever and said: "He has run a fantastic race. You can be disappointed with the result but not the performance. We will step him up in trip next season."