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Le Breuil edges Discorama in action-packed National Hunt Chase

Le Breuil and Jamie Codd (right) win the National Hunt Chase ahead of Discorama (left)
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Le Breuil prevailed in a contest that proved to be survival of the fittest in the National Hunt Chase as the mount of Jamie Codd held on to deny Discorama in a thrilling finale to the opening day of this year's Cheltenham Festival.

Ben Pauling's representative went off at 14-1 and was prominent throughout as plenty of horses bowed out early, including market leader Ballyward, with only four managing to finish the gruelling four mile trip.

But the seven-year-old took control when jumping the final fence and hung on to pip Paul Nolan's Discorama by just half a length to continue jockey Jamie Codd's fantastic festival record.

He said: "It was a real war of attrition out there. I was very fortunate to be booked for the ride by Mr Pauling, and I'm delighted to get another Cheltenham winner.

"I kept Le Breuil wide which seemed to pay off, but he was so tough and just kept going."

The Philip Hobbs-trained Jerrysback was 47 lengths behind to come home a distant third, while the only other finisher, the 125-1 Clondaw Cian, was one length back in fourth.

Festival first for Blackmore as A Plus Tard wins Close Brothers in style

A late surge from A Plus Tard saw the five-year-old break from the pack to win the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase and provide jockey Rachael Blackmore with her first ever Cheltenham Festival winner.

Henry de Bromhead's five-year-old went off at 5-1 and justified favouritism as he charged clear to best the Joseph O'Brien-trained Tower Bridge by a startling 16 lengths.

"I've visualised getting my first Cheltenham winner a lot, but never by that margin!" said Blackmore. "The task this week was just to get a winner."

Blackmore also paid tribute to De Bromhead, and said: "He has put a lot of faith in me and been good to me all year. I'm very grateful to be able to repay him."

Rachael Blackmore celebrates A Plus Tard's 16-length victory in the Close Brothers

A Plus Tard's form had already been complimented by Duc Des Genievres' victory in the Arkle, who he beat at Naas last December, and De Bromhead was very happy with the gelding's performance.

He said: "I'm delighted with that. Rachel gave him a super ride and and I'm really pleased for the Thompsons as it's good of them to support us.

"We always liked him. He beat Duc Des Genievres in his beginners chase which looks all the better now. We were disappointed when he was beaten at Naas on his last start and when he got into the Close Brothers this looked the perfect race."

Ben Dundee finished four and a half lengths behind Tower Bridge in third for Gordon Elliott, while The Russian Doyen was in the mix throughout and secured fourth. 

Beware The Bear claws out win in thrilling Ultima

Beware The Bear romped home to win the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase in the most thrilling of circumstances under Jeremiah McGrath to give Nicky Henderson his first winner of this year's Cheltenham Festival.

The nine-year-old took control on the back straight but had to hold off a late fightback from Vintage Clouds to follow up a victory here on New Year's Day at odds of 10-1.

McGrath revealed that a change of tactics from Henderson at the last minute made the difference for his gelding.

He said: "The plan originally was to go and make the running, but that was then changed at the last minute to give him room. As it came so late there was no time to think about it, so I kept him out of the way, went wide and avoided any trouble.

"He jumped exceptionally well and gave his all out there."

Beware The Bear leads Vintage Clouds over the last fence in the Ultima Handicap Chase

As Henderson celebrated his first win of the festival, it was McGrath's first victory at the famous meeting since 2012, and the jockey was delighted to break the streak.

"It's been seven years since I last won here, and I didn't really appreciate it at the time," said McGrath. "It's hard to get rides here, let alone winners, and I'm grateful for the faith everyone has had in me."

Henderson added: "He really enjoyed it out there. There was plenty of daylight and he had time to find himself. A win on day one makes an enormous difference and I'm delighted with him."

Nick Alexander's Lake View Lad put in a valiant performance to finish third despite carrying top weight, while Big River ran on for fourth spot despite some early errors.

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I've visualised getting my first Cheltenham winner a lot, but never by that margin!
E.W. Terms