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  Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 23:21 GMT
Winds of change
Best Mate's trainer Henrietta Knight gets a kiss from the owner and jockey
Best Mate's trainer Henrietta Knight gets a kiss from the owner and jockey
By BBC Sport Online's Sophie Brown at Cheltenham

Just as a biting wind whipped through the last day of the Cheltenham Festival, so too was the wind of change swirling around the Gloucestershire course.

Young chaser Best Mate was at the head of the new guard, the seven-year-old beating his more experienced rivals in style in the feature race of the three-meeting, the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Baracouda, another seven-year-old, also turned in an impressive display with a well-timed run to win the Bonusprint Stayers' Hurdle.

And young pretender, the five-year-old Royal Auclair, won the Cathcart, giving Tony McCoy his only win of the festival in the process.

Doumen was delighted with Baracouda's win
Doumen was delighted with Baracouda's win
There was also a rare victory for a female jockey, with Fiona Needham winning the Foxhunter on the biggest-priced winner of the day, the 20-1 shot Last Option.

Just as had been the case on day one, the final session of the festival began well for the Irish with Willie Mullins' Scolardy, under the guidance of Charlie Swan, cruising to a very comfortable victory.

Next up was Baracouda, who was the banker of the meeting for many punters.

The French horse, who had been an odds-on ante-post favourite for much of the winter, had drifted to start at 13-8, and it seemed the late doubts might be well-founded when the horse lay last at the halfway stage of the race.

But French jockey Thierry Doumen showed real sang-froid to bring Baracouda through and out-sprint Bannow Bay after the last to deny Swan a double.

Jockey's crown

Baracouda's victory also meant that Irish owner JP McManus had had a winner on each day of the meeting.

It looked like being another bad day for champion jockey McCoy when 4-1 favourite Exit Swinger was beaten to the line by Fadoudal du Cochet in the Grand Annual.

But McCoy finally broke his 2002 festival duck - and his silence with the media - when 2-1 favourite Royal Auclair obliged in the following race, the penultimate of the meeting.

But McCoy's mount in the last, Polar Red, did not win and was thus unable to claim the 60,000 bonus which had been on offer after winning the Imperial Cup at Sandown last weekend.

Instead, the closing race of the festival - the County Hurdle - was won by Rooster Booster, a victory which handed his rider Richard Johnson the leading jockey's crown for this year's festival.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght
"Best Mate is now king of steeplechasing's castle"
Winning jockey Jim Culloty
"He's an absolute machine"
Winning owner Jim Lewis
"Everybody wants to win a Gold Cup"
Commanche Court's trainer Ted Walsh
"We were an honourable second"
Cheltenham stages its big jump race meeting from 12-14 March

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Links to more Cheltenham Festival stories are at the foot of the page.


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