Delta Work and Davy Russell edge Pertemps thriller to justify punters' faith
After the battle the victor and the defeated shared a handshake in the winner’s enclosure, both knowing they had been involved in one of those great Cheltenham Festival finishes.
For two men as competitive and hungry for winners as owners Michael O’Leary and JP McManus, it was a notable acknowledgement from both that, although there was a winner and a loser, their two horses had produced terrific performances when it mattered.
At the line a nose separated O’Leay’s Delta Work from McManus’s Glenloe after the pair had fought their way through the helter-skelter of the 23-runner Pertemps Final field to jump the last almost as one.
There was barely a hair between them at the finish, but it was Delta Work who was called the winner after a prolonged photo-finish. The five-year-old landed a gamble in the process, having been supported into 6-1 from 14-1.
“I thought we'd lost it on the bob,” O’Leary said as he welcomed back his fourth winner of the week at Cheltenham. “He’s improved and had a light weight so we knew he had a chance, but he needed a bit of luck in running. To be fair Davy [Russell] had a lovely position the whole way around.”
Russell was required to pass the doctor before being allowed to ride on the third day of the meeting, having been left sore by the fall of Bless The Wings in the Glenfarclas Chase the previous day.
He certainly showed no pain as he went head-to-head with Barry Geraghty on the climb to the finish, neither prepared to give the other an inch in their pursuit of festival glory.
“It was a terrific finish,” O’Leary continued. “Davy is a master jockey and rides Cheltenham better than just about anyone; he has to be worth a couple of pounds at least around here in these handicaps and that can make such a big difference.
"I’m sure he’s feeling a lot better now than he was this morning.”
The most relaxed person in Cheltenham as the wait for the result dragged out was trainer Gordon Elliott. Whatever happened he was going to have trained a second festival winner of the day.
"It's a great day – the horses are flying,” he said with a mixture of relief and delight.
“I think Glenloe was a but unlucky. He missed the last and if he had jumped it he probably would have won. To be first and second in a race like that is unbelievable. On Tuesday I thought, ‘Oh my god, it's going to be one of those weeks'. We've five winners now.”
Read exclusive previews from 6pm daily on racingpost.com