TIGER CLAWS A FIRST VICTORY FOR WILLIAMS
Flying Tiger's triumph in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle was a first at The Festival for trainer Nick Williams.
Ridden by champion jockey Richard Johnson - scoring his first win of the week - the Soldier Of Fortune four-year-old beat Divin Bere by a neck. He was sent off at odds of 33/1.
Williams said: "We've had lots of near-misses here with the likes of Maljimar [second in the 2009 Ultima Handicap Chase] and Reve De Sivola [second in the 2010 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle], so it was due to come sooner or later. I thought if we were ever going to do it, it might be with a juvenile.
"Lizzie [Kelly, Williams' stepdaughter, who rode Diable De Sivola into fifth place] must take a lot of the credit for Flying Tiger winning - it was a really hard call for her to decide which one to ride. She said to take the ear plugs out at the start, because at Kempton in the Adonis Hurdle [where he finished fourth] he had earplugs in for the whole race and she didn't really feel he picked up from two out. So we've gone down to post late, all those little things that she has advised and she has sorted out, so it is very much a team effort. It's a bit hard on her.
"The Adonis made us decide to come here for the Fred Winter rather than the Triumph Hurdle. I think he was just switched off a little bit too much at Kempton.
"We bought Flying Tiger as a yearling in Deauville, like I've bought lots of good horses, such as Fox Norton [second in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase for Colin Tizzard]."
TIGER ROARS HOME FOR JOHNSON
Richard Johnson was delighted to gain his 21st Festival success and his first of this year's meeting after partnering the Nick Williams-trained Flying Tiger (33/1) to success in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, the sixth race on day two, Ladies Day, of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.
Held up in midfield by Britain's champion Jump jockey early on in the two-mile event, Williams' charge came with a late withering run after jumping the final flight to beat 9/2 favourite Divin Bere and score by a neck. Brain Ellison's Nietzsche (12/1) was a neck further back in third, with John Quinn's Project Bluebook (14/1) five lengths behind in fourth.
Johnson said: "I think the main thing with him is he is very keen and Nick and his team have done a wonderful job at helping him learn to settle.
"To be fair Lizzie Kelly has done a lot of the work with him and after I rode him at Exeter [sixth, November 20] I said he would never win if he was this keen and he has got more and more settled with each run.
"Today's race was the perfect race for him because they went a strong gallop, he jumped really well and the race unfolded for him so look he is obviously a very good horse and if they can continue with his progression, hopefully there will be more to come."
Johnson failed to ride a winner at last year's Festival and was justifiably delighted to get on the board at the 2017 Festival.
He remarked: "There's no such feeling as a winner here. I didn't have a winner at Cheltenham last year so it's nice to get off the mark this year.
"Cheltenham is a very special place and it doesn't matter if it's a juvenile race, the bumper or the Gold Cup, they are all hard to come by and you need to appreciate every single one of them because they are all very special."
4.50pm Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
1 FLYING TIGER (The Macaroni Beach Society) Nick Williams 4-11-05 Richard Johnson 33/1
2 Divin Bere (Chris Giles) Nicky Henderson 4-11-10 Noel Fehily 9/2 Fav
3 Nietzsche (D Gilbert, M Lawrence, A Bruce, G Willis) Brian Ellison 4-11-01 12/1
4 Project Bluebook (J P McManus) John Quinn 4-11-09 Brian Hughes 14/1
Distances: nk, nk, 5
Tote Win £48.60 Places: £7.90; £1.80; £3.30; £4.20 Exacta: £354.30
Nick Williams - 1st winner at The Festival
Richard Johnson - 21st winner at The Festival
BetBright Cup - standings after 13 races
Great Britain 6
DIVIN BARELY BEATEN
Nicky Henderson, who trained the 9/2 favourite Divin Bere, who went down by a neck to the winner, 33/1 chance Flying Tiger, commented after the race: "Second is second, it is alright being second when you have the winner as well! He ran well and I am pleased with him."
Noel Fehily, jockey of the second, added: "He has run a blinder. It was a very rough running and the whole occasion has got to him but he ran a stormer."
Brian Ellison, who trains the third-placed Nietzsche in Malton, said: "He ran a blinder, that was a great race.
"I thought he would be happier with juice in the ground but that is not an excuse. Danny (Cook, jockey) thought he might have just landed on his backend after the last and that he might have lost a bit of momentum. It is a tough race and he has run brilliantly. To be honest, I thought he was the winner at the last. It is a very hard juvenile to win so I am happy.
"As to where he goes, we will have to see. Ground is very important to him, he likes it soft and he has run a lot. I will see what Danny (Gilbert, Owner) says, but there is Aintree and Punchestown but if the ground doesn't come right we won't run."