The outstanding woman amateur of her generation was overshadowed before the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase by a novice rider, but she was in front when it mattered.
Nina Carberry won last year's race riding On The Fringe for owner J P McManus, and she repeated the feat on the same horse today, bringing the Enda Bolger-trained winner through late to win going away - back in fifth, and worthy of just as many plaudits as Carberry, was Victoria Pendleton, the Olympian who began riding last year, and covered herself in glory on Pacha Du Polder.
She was beaten less than three lengths and was finishing as well as any after a hold-up ride, while 13/8 favourite On The Fringe beat Marito by a neck, with last year's third, Paint The Clouds, taking that slot again, another length further back. Sheikh Fahad's Current Event was fourth, beaten a further length.
Enda Bolger, who trains On The Fringe, said: "It's exciting, and it's got a bit of everything - we're not only clapping Nina on the back, but Victoria also. It was a brilliant performance by both women and it gives the [St James's Place] Foxhunter Chase a great lift.
"He hadn't run since Punchestown in April when he was beaten first time out this season, and after his three big wins here, at Aintree and Punchestown we were very kind on him and gave him a good break at J P's place. He came back a little too burly and needed a race for the match practice. He needed to pull out all the stops today.
"He likes to be ridden from behind and arrive late, but they were going so fast up front there was no other option. It all came together.
"If everything is okay in the next 10 days the plan is to go back to Aintree, and then consider Punchestown again."
CARBERRY DOUBLES UP
Under a beautifully-timed ride from Nina Carberry, 13/8 favourite On The Fringe won his second consecutive St James's Place Foxhunter Chase by a neck from Marito.
It was only the Enda Bolger-trained 11-year-old's second run of the season, and he was beaten on his reappearance at Leopardstown on February 6.
Carberry has now won six races at The Festival and three St James's Place Foxhunter Chases.
She said: "I'm just so happy, so happy, I can't believe it. I didn't think I had a chance turning in, I was boxed in with nowhere to go. I was bit worried going to the second last and I needed a jump at the last and he winged them, he's always there for you.
"He [Enda Bolger] is unbelievable for getting a horse right. He kept him for today and a spring campaign and he's done a great job."
"I was expecting a better gallop for him, to be honest, to use his jumping more and I couldn't really do that. When it started heating up a lot of bunching happened and we missed the third last and I thought, 'oh God, our chance has gone' because they'd kicked on a bit and I'd lost about three lengths. But in fairness he dug back and winged the last two, and he kept going. It was a brilliant training performance by Enda.
"[The horse] doesn't handle very heavy ground and it showed that day [at Leopardstown]; he didn't handle it at all but we needed to get a run into him and he had to run. He loves the spring ground - it brings out the best in him. It's a dream come true to win here again."
Asked about Victoria Pendleton, Carberry said: "It's the first time I've met her today and I think she's great. She's got an unbelievable attitude to the whole thing and I'm delighted she got around - fifth place is a great achievement. She had a great horse to ride and look after her, and may she go onwards from here. She has the competitive edge and she loves it to bits."
1) On The Fringe (J P McManus) Enda Bolger IRE 11-12-00 Ms Nina Carberry 13/8 Fav 2) Marito (James Marley/Samuel Downey) Colin McBratney IRE 10-12-00 Mr Noel McParlan 14/1 3) Paint The Clouds (Peter Deal & Robin Eynon) Warren Greatrex 11-12-00 Mr Sam Waley-Cohen 9/2
Distances: nk, 1 7th win at The Festival for trainer Enda Bolger 6th win at The Festival for jockey Nina Carberry
THE BETBRIGHT CUP - GREAT BRITAIN - 12 IRELAND - 14
CHAMPION TRAINER NICHOLLS HEAPS PRAISE ON PENDLETON
Britain's champion trainer Paul Nicholls was full of praise for Victoria Pendleton following her fifth place finish in the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase.
While many voices had said the former Olympic cyclist, who had ridden just one winner before today, was too much of a novice to be allowed to ride in such a competitive race - 24 went to post - Nicholls defended the decision to allow her to ride Pacha Du Polder. Last for a circuit, she gradually made up ground and was beaten less than three lengths at the finish.
Nicholls said: "Congratulations first to Nina Carberry [who rode winner On The Fringe], but for Victoria to finish fifth after all the publicity and people doubting her ability was superb. Believe you me, Team Ditcheat would not have let her go out there today if she was not ready. She has improved enormously and was brilliant today.
"She did what we told her - I said, ride him that way and you can finish fifth or sixth. She's had a thrill and it's been good for racing across the board.
"She's not won, but she's ridden 'a winner' today in everyone's eyes, and you saw the reaction from the crowd - it's what the sport is all about. There was a lot of people with a lot of opinions, and they do it because they haven't got a voice otherwise - they want to get back in their box quite honestly. A professional team have been behind her and if we hadn't believed in her she would not have ridden our horse. We're not stupid and we knew what she was capable of.
"The horse is a legend and the one I felt was suited to giving her a ride, and Andy [Stewart, the owner] was very kind to let her get on board. She earned the right to be out here."
Nicholls confirmed that Pacha Du Polder would now be aimed at Aintree's Crabbies Fox Hunters' Chase in which he was second last year, but that Will Biddick would be back in the saddle. Pendleton is not qualified, yet, to take a ride over Aintree's Grand National fences.
However, Nicholls added: "There are some other hunters' chases later in the season, such as a ladies' race at Stratford, and we will consider that. She can get back on him then."
The "Foxhunters" is run immediately after the Gold Cup and over the same course and distance.
It is the most prestigious hunter chase of the season and is restricted to amateur riders and horses aged four and over. It is effectively the Gold Cup for amateur jockeys. To qualify to run in the race a horse must have finished first or second twice in hunter chases or won two point-to-point chases, or achieved one first or second in a hunter chase and one point-to-point chase win. If you have a race tip share it on the Foxhunters Chase thread.
CGA Foxhunters Chase Trends
Trainers: Irish trained horses have won the last 5.
There had only been 3 Irish trained wins in the previous 60 years !
The first three home in 2013 and 2014 were Irish trained
Paul Nicholls trained back to back winners in 2004-5
Form: 8 of the last 13 winners won last time out.
Prep: 11 out of the last 11 had a prep between 21 and 35 days beforehand
Age: Horses aged 10 or younger have overperformed.
Although making up only half the field during the period 21 of the last 23 renewals were won by horses aged 10 or younger.
Jockey: Colman Sweeney became the most successful race jockey since 1946 steering Salsify to success in 2013.
CGA Foxhunters Chase Winners 2006-2015
Foxhunters Chase Background and Trivia
The Foxhunter Chase is one of the oldest races at the Festival. The first running in 1904 was won by the 6/4 favourite Palmy Boy, owned and ridden by Mr J Widger. Christie's backed the race for 34 years until 2012. This year' s renewal is sponsored by the Country Gentlemen's Association
The race is restricted to horses who have run in hunters' chases in Great Britain or Ireland or horses who have won at point-to-point meetings, with a safety limit of 24.
Double Silk beat just four rivals in 1993, while 38 horses lined up in 1948. A maximum field of 24 has started in eight of the past 10 renewals.
Since 1946 six horses have won the Foxhunter Chase twice although no horse has won it three times. The Callant won in 1956 and 1957, Whinstone Hill in 1958 and 1960, Colledge Master in 1961 and 1962, Double Silk in 1993 ,and 1994, Fantus in 1995 and 1997 and Earthmover in 1998 and 2004.
The Foxhunter Chase is the only race at The Festival open to trainers who are not full-time professionals or hold a permit to train their family's horses. Richard Barber, brother of Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning owner Paul, is the leading trainer with four wins – Rushing Wild (1992), Fantus (1995 and 1997) and Earthmover in 1998. Paul Nicholls trained Earthmover for the horse's second victory in 2004.
The Foxhunter Chase is one of three race s exclusively for amateur riders at The Festival – the others are the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase and the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Chase. Nine jockeys have won "the Amateurs' Gold Cup" twice since 1946, the most recent being Colman Sweeney, who partnered Sleeping Night in 2005 and Salsify in 2012. No rider has won the race three times.
Three of the five 13-year-olds to have been successful at The Festival since 1946 have come in the Christie's Foxhunter Chase - Earthmover in 2004, Merry, who dead-heated in 1953, and Greenwood in 1950. The other two 13-year-olds to have won were Approval in the 1959 Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle and Willie Wumpkins in the 1981 Pertemps Final. They are the oldest horses to have succeeded at The Festival in this period.
Halloween (1951), Attitude Adjuster (1986) and Kingscliff (2003) are the three six-year-olds to win in the same period.
Freddie won at prohibitive odds of 1/3 in 1964, while Double Silk was sent off at odds of 2/5 for his second success in 1994. Woodside Terrace (1995) and Amicelli (2008) are the longest-priced winners since 1946, having both scored at 33/1.
There have been eight Irish-trained winners since 1946 - Eliogarty (1983), Attitude Adjuster (1986), Lovely Citizen (1991), Whyso Mayo (2006), Zemsky (2011) and Salsify (2012/13) and Tammys Hill (2014)
Caroline Beasley became the first female jockey to win a race at The Festival when successful on Eliogarty in the 1983 Christie's Foxhunter Chase. Since then the race has been won four times by women - Katie Rimell on Three Counties in 1989, Polly Curling on Fantus in 1995, Fiona Needham in 2002 on Last Option and Rilly Goschen on Earthmover in 2004.
If you are a Cheltenham Festival fan we would love to get your views on our discussion forum. We have dedicated threads for all 27 races and will be gathering stats, quotes and tips in the Countdown to March 2016.