Cheltenham Festival 2017: Special Tiara upsets Douvan

The Willie Mullins trained horse is handed his first ever defeat

BY Rob Fanning 18:23 Wednesday 15 March 2017, 18:23 15 Mar 2017

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Day two of the festival revolved all around Douvan, a horse that has virtually performed perfectly since joining Willie Mullins yard. Shockingly Douvan failed to win going off at odds of 2-9. Not only did he not win, he finished in seventh place.

Instead, it was Special Tiara who took the glory at odds of 11-1 in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. She travelled from the front for the enotire race and won by two lengths seeing off the strong finishing Fox Norton.

Speaking after the race Mullins said: "I'm assuming something happened when he put in those huge jumps, which I've never seen him do before. I imagine I'll find a physical problem with him."

"Ruby [Walsh] said he didn't jump like he normally does and when I saw him jump the first couple of fences, I knew he couldn't get away with it in a Champion Chase.

"I'd been hoping he's my best ever and it's my job to try and get him back if I can. Ruby said he didn't feel like he was moving well behind and I imagine we'll find a problem."

Noel Fehily was on board Special Tiara and the jockey has now taken both feature races on days one and two.

Special Tiara ridden by Noel Fehily comes home to beat favourite Douvan in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Winning a Champion Hurdle and following that up with a Champion Chase victory is pretty special. After the race Fehily found it difficult to contain his joy.

"Unbelievable," he said. "He's such a great ride, he's everything a two-mile chaser should be. He's a very good horse. I've always loved two-mile chasers, the Champion Chase is the one you want to win. To win it is fantastic."

The Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle was the first Grade One of the day, which Willoughby Court won at 14-1 beating the clear Favourite Neon Wolf.

The two travelled beautifully and if it wasn’t for a poor jump at the last from the latter, the punters would have gotten off to a flyer. Second favourite Bacardy’s who was ridden by Ruby Walsh struggled throughout the race and was pulled up before the last.

The RSA Novices’ Chase was one of the most remarkable races the festival has ever seen. Might Bite trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico De Boinville won by a photo finish to beat Whisper, but there was a lot more to it than that.

Might Bite was hugely fancied by a lot of punters. His stamina and speed have never been an issue, the problem has always been his jumping. Over Christmas he ran in a three mile chase at Kempton, the same afternoon Thistlecrack jumped to glory in the King George.

Mite Bite was 20 lengths clear before he jumped the last and going by the clock he had gone around quicker than what Thistlecrack did when beating Cue Card. Unfortunately though, He fell at the last which meant Royal Vacation would race to victory.

Might Bite clears the final fence to win by a nose. Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

There was a lot more quality in today's race for Mite Bite to handle but his jumping improved hugely and he led from the front from the word go. He was about 20 lengths clear before jumping the last - very similar to Christmas - when he put in a lazy jump which halted his momentum.

Although he was over safely he began to veer right losing ground rapidly. Whisper came from nowhere and began to charge. He quickly went clear and took the lead. Mite Bite began to straighten up and rallied as hard as he could in a desperate pursuit to fight back and regain the lead. Both horses were all out and as they approached the line they virtually landed neck and neck. It went to a photo finish and much to the delight of the punters, Mite Bite won by a whisker. It was potentially the most exciting race of this years festival so far.

In the other races Supasundae at 16-1 took the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle.

Cause Of Causes won the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at 4-1.

Flying Tiger won the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle giving trainer Nick Williams his first ever win at the festival at odds of 33-1.

The final race of the day was the Champion Bumper where Fayonagh at 8-1 came from nowhere to bolt up the hill in a dramatic finish. It was another winner for Jamie Codd and Gordon Elliott who are having an incredible festival.

It’s two down and two to go and there have been so many talking points from this years festival so far, most notably the fact that Willie Mullins is yet to have a winner. Will Yorkhill stop the drought in tomorrow’s opening race?


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