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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Radford strikes gold as Mister Whitaker pips Rather Be in thriller

Tim Radford (centre) and Mick Channon (right) enjoy their first festival wins
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On Friday he will present the trophy for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup but, in fading light on the opening day of the festival, Tim Radford felt the raw emotion of winning at the biggest jumps meeting of them all. And boy did he enjoy it.

It took the judge to split Radford’s Mister Whitaker, who got a peach of a waiting ride from Brian Hughes, and plucky runner-up Rather Be and, as soon as the result was revealed, Radford celebrated in style with a huge entourage in the winner’s enclosure.

“Who said Mick Channon couldn’t train a jumps horse?” said an ecstatic Radford as he flung his arms around the winning trainer. “What a man! He can score goals but he can also train winners.”

Rocklander leading Rather Be and Mister Whitaker over the last

Mister Whitaker returned a well-supported 13-2 chance but he had looked much longer odds to even make the race at the six-day stage before scraping in as the last of 20 runners on Sunday.

“We were so lucky to get in,” said a relieved Radford, founder of Gold Cup sponsor Timico and a board member. “We were watching the entries and as the clocked ticked down were still outside the 20 runners, but at the last minute the screen refreshed and we were in.

"This is my first ever winner at the festival and it’s heaven.”

View the full race replay along with the result here

It was also a first festival success for former Southampton and England footballer Channon, better known for his big-race success on the Flat, and he predicted a bright future for the winner.  

“It means so much to the Radford family,” he said. “When it rained yesterday I thought our chance might have gone but he’s got a lot of class.

Mister Whitaker: returning to the winner's enclosure under Brian Hughes

"I don’t see why he couldn’t be a Gold Cup horse one day – he’s only six.”

The winner was purchased for Radford by Channon’s neighbour, three-time Gold Cup winner Henrietta Knight, who was in the thick of the celebrations.  

“When I saw him at the Costellos – the same people I bought Best Mate from – I loved the horse, he’s an athlete,” she said. “Mick's one of my greatest friends and it’s brilliant for him to have a Cheltenham winner.”

While there was unbridled joy for Radford and co, there was heartache for connections of Report To Base who suffered a fatal injury when falling at the ninth.  

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This is my first ever winner at the Cheltenham Festival and it’s heaven
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