SOLAR ECLIPSES RIVALS AND ROUNDS UP A FABULOUS 434/1 DOUBLE FOR NICHOLLS
Trainer Paul Nicholls wore the biggest smile in Cheltenham's winner's enclosure after landing the final race at The Festival, 2016, and his third of the meeting.
His Solar Impulse, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies, won at 28/1, completing a 434/1 double initiated by Ibis Du Rheu in the previous race. Wearing blinkers for the first time, Solar Impulse, owned by Andrea and Graham Wylie, won by three and three-quarters of a length and half a length from Dandridge and the 9/2 favourite Rock The World. Savello finished fourth, another good result for Dan Skelton, a former assistant trainer to Nicholls.
The champion trainer, who now has a total of 40 Festival firsts, said: "It's been a great day - we've had two nice winners, Victoria Pendleton had a great spin on Pacha Du Polder, Dan and Harry Skelton have had a winner [Superb Story in the Vincent O'Brien Handicap Hurdle] and Jack Sherwood has enjoyed his first Festival success.
"This horse has not been trying his hardest this season, but having said that he's been running on heavy ground at Haydock and Exeter which he hated. We have been forced to take him out of races because of the ground, but today it was perfect and the blinkers made a big difference to him.
"Yesterday, when I was doing the declarations, I was thinking I've got to do something to get the best from this horse and decided to put the blinkers on, ten minutes before the deadline. Sometimes you get a gut feeling and it pays off. The day before I made a pig's ear by not declaring blinkers for Arpege d'Alene [second in the Pertemps Network Final], but you don't know if that would have made the difference or not.
"Last night we put blinkers on this horse while he was on the walker and then came here. To me he was travelling like the winner throughout the race, and he's dropped to a handicap mark from which he can win. We'll now go to Aintree."
SOLAR IMPULSE FINALLY FINDS HIS FORM
Sam Twiston-Davies was delighted with Solar Impulse's three and three quarter length win in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase. The win means he finishes with three wins for the week and is runner-up behind Ruby Walsh in the Boodles Leading Jockey Award.
"It's absolutely brilliant," Twiston-Davies said. "We were stood in the paddock beforehand discussing it and I can't quite believe it has worked out as well as it has. Mr Wylie and me had a discussion before and he said I owed him one for the bumper, so it's nice to get him one on the board."
Solar Impulse has struggled to find form this season and this was only the second time he has delivered over fences - a first since 2014.
"We have been disappointed with the way this horse has been running all year but the blinkers and the good ground has made the world of difference. He jumped, he travelled it is as good a feel as I've had off him for a long time."
"We needed to see something a bit more like this if he was going to win this, and I couldn't been happier - he was really tanking along," he continued. "This year he just seemed to be going to sleep on you during the races. It was a very different story today."
"It's important to get winners for the champion trainer at the Festival," he continued. "I believe in him and it's important he believes in me, and it's important to come to meetings like this and ride winners.
"It's great to ride winners here for the boss man [Nicholls] but also for Dad as well [Ballyandy in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper], so it's been a great week."
1) Solar Impulse (Andrea & Graham Wylie) Paul Nicholls 6-11-00 Sam Twiston-Davies 28/1 2) Dandridge (Ronnie Bartlett) Arthur Moore IRE 7-10-11 Davy Russell 8/1 3) Rock The World (Michael Buckley) Jessica Harrington IRE 8-11-06 Robbie Power 9/2 Fav 4) Savello ((S Smith & S Campion) Dan Skelton 10-11-05 Bridget Andrews (5) 25/1
Distances: 3¾, ½, 1 ¾
40h win at The Festival for trainer Paul Nicholls 7th win at The Festival for jockey Sam Twiston-Davies
Next Sensation won the 2015 renewal for the Scudamore brothers with two Jp Mc Manus owned horses finishing in the first 4. In 2014 Savello foiled a third successive JP McManus owned winner of the Grand Anuual Chase when winning for trainer Tony Martin and jockey Davy Russell. The win completed a remarkable treble including the feature race on Gold Cup Friday for Russell.
Below we look at the previous winners trends from 2006 to 2015:
Grand Annual Chase Stats 2005-2014
Winners Market Position 3 0 4 2 2 8 0 1 9 6
Fate of the Favourite 0 F 6 2 8 P 0 1 2/3 4
8 of the last 10 had a prep run between 13 and 41 days beforehand ( no the last 2)
8 of the last 9 British trained winners had a previous course win
7 of the last 11 winners were rated between 129 and 134
9 of the last 11 winners carried 10-13 or less
Since the renaming of the race in 2004 Nicky Henderson has saddled two winners and seven placed horses
Henderson trained the first second and fourth in 2012
Paul Nicholls has trained two winners since 2004
The JP McManus owned Alderwood and Kid Cassidy finished 1-2 in the 2013 Grand Annual. McManus also won with Bellvano in 2012