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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 18:01 GMT
Thursday at Cheltenham
Iris's Gift edges out Baracouda in the Stayers Hurdle

Around 60,000 people sent a tremendous cheer around Prestbury Park as Best Mate won the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The most popular horse in Britain had to work hard for the win but scenes of utter jubilation accompanied his return to the winner's enclosure.

The Henrietta Knight-trained horse is the first since Arkle nearly 40 years ago to claim the historic feat of three Gold Cups in a row.

Earlier, Iris's Gift gained revenge on Baracouda for last year's defeat in the Stayers Hurdle with a well-earned and very popular win.

Baracouda had been seeking his third consecutive win in the race but just couldn't overcome his rival up the Cheltenham hill.


1745 Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle (2m 1f)
1. Sporazene (R Walsh) 7-1jf
2. Hawadeth (Mr TJ Malone) 50-1
3. Copeland (J E Moore) 25-1
4. Balapour (C Llewellyn) 12-1
23 ran. Dist: , 2

Sporazene ensured Ruby Walsh and Paul Nicholls finish Cheltenham as top jockey and trainer with a hard-earned victory in the final race of the Festival.

The horse struck the front a couple from home and although he was well clear at the last, Hawadeth came through with a superb run to almost pip Sporazene on the line.

1710 Cathcart Challenge Cup Chase (2m 5f)

1. Our Armageddon (L McGrath) 9-1
2. Iris Royal (M A Fitzgerald) 11-4
3. Impek (J Culloty) 3-1 8 ran. Dist: 2,11

The Richard Guest-trained Our Armageddon won to make up for the disappointment of unseating jockey Larry McGrath in Tuesday's Arkle Trophy.

Although it looked like Impek would give Jim Culloty a second win of the day, it was Iris Royal and Mick Fitzgerald who moved to the front with Our Armageddon.

McGrath's mount made much of the front running and had the edge going to the final fence and he maintained his advantage on the run-in for victory.

It gives the trainer his first Cheltenham win as a trainer after a previous triumph in the Challenge Hurdle as a rider.

1635 Cheltenham Grand Annual Chase (2m)

1. St Pirran (R Walsh) 4-1f
2. Ground Ball (DJ Casey) 10-1
3. Reiziger (PJ Brennan) 33-1
4. No Visibility (TJ Murphy)14-1
21 ran. Dist: 2, 7

St Pirran justified his favourites tag, thanks to an excellent ride by Ruby Walsh to take the Grand Annual Chase.

Walsh's mount, trained by Paul Nicholls, travelled well throughout and started to contest the lead two out along with Ground Ball after the pair overhauled Reiziger.

They jumped the last almost together but St Pirran looked the stronger and ran on well.

1600 Christie's Foxhunter Chase (3m 2f)

1. Earthmover (Miss A Goshen) 14-1
2. Never Compromise (Mr AP Crowe) 9-2
3. County Derry (Mr N Harris) 16-1
24 ran. Dist: 4, 12

Earthmover claimed his second win in the race, holding off the challenge of Never Compromise.

The veteran 13-year-old. who won it back in 1998, rolled back the years for a famous victory as the Ted Walsh-trained Never Compromise battled hard.

Earthmover, who moved into the lead with four to go, made a slight mistake at the last but Rilly Goschen overcame that to guide her mount up the hill to claim victory.

1515 Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup (3m 2f)

1. Best Mate (Jim Culloty) 8-11f
2. Sir Rembrandt (A Thornton) 33-1
3. Harbour Pilot (P Carberry) 20-1
10 ran. Dist: , 1

Best Mate created history with a third Cheltenham Gold Cup win in a row under the guidance of Jim Culloty.

The brilliant nine-year-old jumped superbly but had to dig very deep to hold off Sir Rembrandt and Harbour Pilot after being almost boxed in turning for home.

But Culloty guided his mount out towards the middle of the track and he moved into the lead at the second last fence and jumped the last safely, holding on superbly up the hill to win.

1435 Bonusprint Stayers' Hurdle (3m)

1. Iris's Gift (B Geraghty) 9-2
2. Baracouda (T Doumen) 8-11f
3. Crystal d'Ainay (R Thornton) 8-1
10 ran. Dist: 1, 13

Iris's Gift held off the challenge of two-time winner Baracouda to win the Stayers Hurdle.

Along with Solerina, Iris's Gift, ridden by Barry Geraghty, made much of the running and kicked for home first around the top bend.

But Baracouda and Thierry Doumen, seeking a third successive win in the race, moved up to challenge and the pair jumped the last together.

However, Iris's Gift made up for last year's defeat to Baracouda in the same race by holding off his French rival's challenge up the hill.

1400 JCB Triumph Hurdle (2m 1f)

1. Made in Japan (R Johnson) 20-1
2. Chief Yeoman (A Dobbin) 40-1
3. Top Strategy (R Walsh) 33-1
4. Cherub (L Cooper) 16-1
23 ran. Dist: 2, nk

Richard Johnson claimed his second 2004 Festival winner on the Philip Hobbs-trained Made in Japan.

After Chief Yeoman and Howle Hill took the lead rounding the final bend, Made in Japan moved to challenge at the last flight.

But in a tough battle up the hill, Made in Japan ran on superbly on the softer ground to win by two lengths.

Top Strategy and Ruby Walsh finished well for third with the 5-1 favourite Trouble At Bay well down the field.



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