Nicky Henderson was delighted to raise a glass to Caribean Boy, who caused a 28-1 upset in landing the Matt Hampson Foundation Silver Trophy Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.
Daryl Jacob’s mount had dropped 3lb below his last winning mark at Kempton 15 months previously, and he came with a withering run up the hill in the extended two-and-a-half-mile feature, passing long-time pace-setter Gemirande inside the final half furlong to score by four lengths.
Gemirande was demoted to third behind Super Six, who was hampered in the closing stages.
Henderson was delighted, if a little surprised, and quipped: “It has been a long time between drinks and I get thirsty!
“The only thing I was gagging to do was run him in the Topham, because I thought he was made for it, but he doesn’t like big fields.
“You can see Daryl has gone round them and given him plenty of daylight all the way. It was his first run back after a wind operation and it is noticeable at home how much lower he has been carrying his head than he was before.
“It is great to see him back. He’s a lovely horse and a good friend. He enjoyed it and has always jumped great.”
Jacob added: “He was a very good horse when he won at Newbury in November 2020 and I thought he was going to be the next Bristol De Mai, but it hasn’t worked out that way.
“He is still a very talented horse. For the ability he has, we were hoping for a lot better, but it’s good to get the ‘W’ today.”
Evan Williams’ 12-year-old former Paddy Power Gold Cup winner, Coole Cody, who made much of the pace before tiring, was retired after the race. He won nine of 42 races, earning over £340,000 in prize-money.
Willaston similarly helped the bookmakers with a 33-1 success in the Kingston Stud Handicap Hurdle scoring by three-quarters of a length under Jamie Hamilton.
Winning trainer Mark Walford said: “I thought he gave him a lovely, patient ride. We were coming here and thinking we had half a chance of a place, but didn’t think we’d be winning.
“He had a good run at Bangor last time and was always going to come on a bit for that. He is a chaser in the making, so there’s a lot to look forward to.”
Tim Vaughan is having a great season back in the big time and bottom-weight Madera Mist ran out a game 14-1 winner of the Gloucester Brewery Handicap Chase under Alan Johns.
Owners Paul and Louise Bowtell saw their patience rewarded by the mare who has not been easy to condition.
Vaughan said: “She is tricky to catch right. She is very particular. She has problems with her bloods consistently, she’ll tire consistently – lactic acid build-up in her muscles.
“We try to prime her for Cheltenham. She stays forever and loves it round here, so we target this meeting every year and she has won three times around here.
“I can’t explain how nice a feeling it is to repay Paul and Louise’s faith and patience with me.
“For it to come off on the day, we’re thrilled. It is a phenomenal win really.”
The burgeoning partnership of trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Sean Bowen, whom many see as a champion of the future, was on the mark when The Friday Man (9-2) took the Citipost Novices’ Hurdle.
Elliott said: “He’s a nice horse and won a couple of hurdle races for us last year. He’s a novice for a while and so we thought we’d take our chance.
“We will try to support Sean now as much as we can for the summer. We’ll let the bandwagon roll for the next few months and will bring as many over for him as we can.
“It just kind of works. He is first jockey to Olly (Murphy) now and we like to use him.”
He added: “I’d say no doubt he will be champion jockey one day. He has Brian Hughes in front of him, but he’s young and has time on his side.”
Captain Cattistock justified 9-2 favouritism when taking the Weatherite Air Conditioning Handicap Chase under a never-say-die ride from 3lb claimer Liam Harrison.
The 10-year-old, who missed the cut for the Grand National field, was winning the three-and-a-quarter-mile event for a second successive year.
Trainer Fergal O’Brien said: “He is a phenomenal horse. He seldom runs a bad race here and seldom runs a bad race full stop. Liam gave him a lovely ride.
“This was always plan A. Most years we wouldn’t get anywhere near (Aintree) anyway.”
Sam Twiston-Davies displayed his talents as he kept Broadway Boy (3-1) up to his game in landing the Safran Landing Systems Handicap Hurdle for his father, trainer Nigel.
The five-year-old had to fend off Hurricane Harvey and Santos Blue, but he dug deep to score by three-quarters of a length.
The winning jockey said: “He was good today, very brave and has a great attitude. He will make into a nice staying chaser, hopefully.”