Heaven Help Us dominates Coral Cup

Heaven Help Us turned what is usually a competitive handicap into a procession when making nearly every yard of the running in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham.

Trained by Paul Hennessy, who until recently was better known as a greyhound handler, the 33-1 shot was left clear at the last when Blue Sari fell, but the winner had flown in any case.

Witness Protection attempted to keep pace with Heaven Help Us throughout, but by the home turn those exertions had taken a toll.

While the field tried to reel in the long-time leader, Heaven Help Us kept finding for 7lb claimer Richard Condon, pulling nine lengths clear at the line.

Nicky Henderson’s Craigneiche came out of the pack for second, with Tea Clipper and Sayo filling the places.

Condon was also on board when the mare won at the Dublin Racing Festival last time out, but she was defying an 12lb higher mark this time.

Hennessy said: “It’s unbelievable, quite incredible to be honest.

“We had a plan, something similar to Leopardstown. There were probably 26 Plan As in the race, but at least we got to use our Plan A.

“Richie was absolutely incredible on her – I don’t think anyone could have ridden her any better than that.

“Training greyhounds is our career. We have about 40 and we were lucky enough to win a couple of English Derbys.

“I only train three horses. It’s off the planet to win here – I can’t believe it.

“We needed a miracle. Heaven Help Us is her name and heaven has helped us today.”

After five successive Irish victories on St Patrick’s Day – including Put The Kettle On in the feature Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase – Sky Pirate just held the late thrust of Entoucas to land a blow for Britain at last in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.

Nick Scholfield was back on board, after missing Sky Pirate’s two mid-winter victories because of injury, and the partnership showed great tenacity to win by a short-head at 14-1.

Entoucas still appeared to be full of running at the last but just could not quite reel in Jonjo O’Neill’s winner in time.

Ibleo stayed on to be almost four lengths further back in third.

O’Neill was full of praise for Sholfield.

He said: “That was great, and Nick gave him a fantastic ride – he jumped quick and slick, and everything went right.

“He likes it here, he obviously stays (further) but is much better off a fast pace at two miles. That plays into his hands, because he travels and does everything nicely.”

A shot at the Arkle this week was in the reckoning at one stage, but O’Neill chose the handicap option.

“I thought if he couldn’t win this he definitely wouldn’t win the Arkle,” he said.

“I thought it was a good run at Warwick behind Allmankind, and he likes the track here, so it all went well – and the plan went right.

“He might have to take a step up in grade now – who knows until you try – but he was in great form coming here. That was the plan, so we’ll see what happens.

“Nick said he was probably in front a bit early, but when the gap came he had to take it.

“A winner at Cheltenham is what everyone wants, and it is what you work for. To have runners is fantastic – and winners is even better.

“He’s surpassed our expectations. He just came in a different horse (this season), and I can’t give you an answer why.”