Billaway makes it third time lucky in Foxhunters

Billaway produced a devastating late finish to snatch victory in the St James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase at Cheltenham.

The 10-year-old, completing a remarkable four-timer for trainer Willie Mullins, got up in the shadow of the post in the hands of his son Patrick to deny Winged Leader.

Billaway made it third time lucky in this race after being second in the last two runnings – but it looked unlikely as Winged Leader led into the straight after overpowering Mighty Stowaway.

Winged Leader jumped the last several lengths clear, but he could not quite last home as Billaway (13-8 favourite) came from the clouds to snatch the spoils by a neck. Mighty Stowaway was 12 lengths away in third place.

Mullins said: “Patrick kidded Billaway around there and the aim has been to win this race with him for three years. He’s come close twice and now he’s done it.

“Patrick never gave up and it’s unfortunate for David Christie (trainer of Winged Love) as it would have been a huge victory for him. As much as I love winning, I’m sorry for David because I know what it’s like losing in the last stride and it’s his Gold Cup as a big pointing man.

“We went for the cheekpieces as he’s idle. I’m delighted for Patrick and John and Michelle Turner (owners), it’s a race we’ve both been desperate to win. Although it might cost John a bit to fill the trophy as it’s the biggest one of them all!”

The winning rider said: “He gets behind the bridle and that’s why we put the cheekpieces on, and he wasn’t jumping fantastic. It was an effort for him. But in fairness, every time I asked him, he came.

“He was very brave at his jumps. I just thought when I landed at the back of the second-last, ‘I have a squeak here’. He stays so well and he’s very brave. He deserves this, and Dave Porter who looks after him – magic man.

“Willie is all right at what he does, isn’t he! He’s very good, he has an incredible amount of pressure. To be the boss’ son and get the rides on these horses makes me a very lucky person.”

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