Paul Townend overcomes a scare at the final fence to guide heavy favourite Monkfish to victory in Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham
Monkfish maintained his unbeaten record over fences with a comprehensive success in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
A narrow winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival, the Willie Mullins-trained chestnut was the 1-4 favourite to strike gold in the Cotswolds for a second time, having been faultless in three previous chase starts.
It was not entirely plain sailing for odds-on backers, with The Big Breakaway more than matching Monkfish in the jumping department for much of the three-mile contest, before Paul Townend’s mount displayed his superior class to move clear before the home turn.
Monkfish won the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase on Wednesday after a late scare
The presence of the riderless Eklat De Rire, who unseated Rachael Blackmore earlier in the race, will have had Monkfish’s supporters sweating in the home straight, as would a mistake at the final fence.
But it ultimately made no difference to the result, with the giant seven-year-old galloping up the hill to score by six and a half lengths from Fiddlerontheroof.
Townend admitted Monkfish’s win was not faultless.
‘It wasn’t foot perfect today, but he’s got the job done – the further I got up the hill the better,’ he said.
‘Early on in the race we just weren’t on the same wavelength, I suppose.
Monkfish and Townend were six and a half lengths clear of The Big Breakaways’ long-priced stablemate Fiddlerontheroof at the line
Townend’s mount displayed superior class to hold off The Big Breakaway and Fiddlerontheroof
‘It’s a lot of pressure riding these fancied horses – don’t get me wrong, I know how lucky I am to be riding them, but you have to perform on them as well.
‘He does things so easily but he’s still maturing, so he takes everything in – there’s plenty to look at out in the country, with the Jeep driving alongside us, plenty of people scattered around the track and the signs everywhere.
‘He just looked at everything.’
Mullins could reflect on a case of all well that ended well after Monkfish had won at the Festival for the second year running.
‘He put one in early at the fence going up the hill – he just seemed unsettled,’ said the trainer.
Townend said he was under a lot of pressure riding the 1-4 favourite but insisted he felt ‘lucky’
‘Paul asked him for one or two and got him back into his rhythm, and then he missed another one.
‘I don’t want to go through that again – that was probably the most nerve-racking race I’ve ever watched.
‘The fact that you’re 4-1 on in a three-mile novice chase going around Cheltenham, it can’t get any more nerve-racking than that.
‘So much can go wrong.
‘Then there’s only five or six runners, which makes him even more of a certainty. It’s there for him to lose, but it’s great now that he’s got the treble (of Grade One novice chases) – so he looks a smart one for the future anyway.’