HARRIET CANNOT BELIEVE HER LUCK AS PACHA WINS
Harriet Tucker, 22, rode her first winner at The Festival on only her second ride under Rules when landing the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase on Pacha Du Polder.
It was the horse's second success in the race, having won under Bryony Frost last year.
Tucker, from Frome in Somerset, joined Nicholls as a groom two years ago, and has been getting experience this season while riding on the point-to-point circuit, principally for trainer Rose Loxton, who also works for Nicholls.
The winning rider said: "It's like a dream - I cannot believe it. It really is a shock. Coming here this morning I thought it would be amazing to come in the first 10. I just won the Foxhunter! Walking out the weighing room I thought, 'God, I'm riding in the Foxhunter, this is mad'. To win it is amazing.
"I tried to get on the inner and keep a straight line - five out I thought 'Gee, I'm still going okay', but a loose horse was bothering me and I tried going wide of it and then ducking back in. Going to the bottom of the hill I thought, 'No way, there's more to come', and at the second-last there was even more! He just kept going and finding more.
"I started riding in points when I was 18, trained my own pointer last year while working at Paul's, and this year I've been riding for Rose. I've had five rides pointing this year and they've all won, so I'm having an amazing season.
"My shoulder half dislocates when I lift it too high, and coming to the second-last it did that and I had to push it back in. After that I couldn't slap him down the shoulder and had to just keep pushing and hoping no one would get past me.
"I have wanted an operation on the shoulder, and now they might give me one."
Sam Davies-Thomas, an assistant to trainer Dan Skelton, and who rode the neck runner-up Top Wood, said: "He gave me a great spin and was in a bit more control than I was, but he gave me a great spin and was just beaten by a better horse.
"He showed what Kelly [Morgan, the trainer of Top Wood] can do, and while I admitted to her that I was gutted to be beaten she told me I wasn't allowed to say that."
NICHOLLS PRAISES PACHA AND HIS NOVICE JOCKEY
Pacha Du Polder won back-to-back runnings of the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase and gave Harriet Tucker, 22, a first taste of Festival success on only her second ride under Rules.
No less remarkably she managed to win despite her shoulder partly dislocating in the home straight. Pacha Du Polder needed little assistance however, and followed up last year's win under Bryony Frost. He was trainer Paul Nicholls only win at the 2017 Festival and he became the first this week for the Ditcheat trainer.
Pacha Du Polder (25/1) beat runner-up Top Wood (50/1) by a neck, with Barel Of Laughs (14/1) and Cousin Pete (66/1) dead-heating for third, a further three and a quarter lengths in arrears.
Nicholls said: "I get a lot of stick for running horses in hunters' chases, but it's brilliant for people like Harriet, Bryony last year, Victoria Pendleton [who was fifth on Pacha Du Polder in this race in 2016] and Rilly Goschen [who won on the Nicholls-trained Earthmover]. It's a life-changing experience for them, and I cannot tell you how proud I am of Harriet and the horse.
"She's worked for us for two years, always wanted to ride in races, so we brought her along quietly and she's done really well. We gave her a winner in a point-to-point on Sunday to give her a bit of confidence and we talked her through the race and just said, 'Take your time'. He's been hard to get right this year, but he had come back to himself of late, and at the top of the hill I knew he had a chance because he does stay.
"We've struggled to find a winner all week with the ground and horses who weren't just good enough, but it's great to have a winner here in any race.
"He's an amazing horse and so good for the team. He needed the run and came on a ton for it at Doncaster."
4.10pm St. James's Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup
1 PACHA DU POLDER (The Stewart Family) Paul Nicholls 11-12-00 Miss Harriet Tucker 25/1
2 TOP WOOD (J Weatherby) Miss Kelly Morgan 11-12-00 Mr Samuel Davies-Thomas 50/1
=3 BAREL OF LAUGHS (Trish Andrews) Philip Rowley 12-12-00 Mr Alex Edwards 14/1
=3 COUSIN PETE (Scilla Phillips) Mrs Elizabeth Brown 10-12-00 Mr Nick Phillips 66/1
4/1 fav Burning Ambition (8th)
Distances: nk, 3¼, dh
Tote Win: £27.00 Places: £6.40, £20.50, £5.30, £2.70 Exacta: £2,799.10
Paul Nicholls - 42nd winner at The Festival
Miss Harriet Tucker - 1st winner at The Festival
BetBright Cup - standings after 26 races
Great Britain 10
BAREL IS THIRD AGAIN
After a nerve wracking few minutes, a dead-heat was declared for third in the St. James Place FoxHunter, with the shared honours going to 14/1 Barel Of Laughs and 66/1 chance Cousin Pete.
After the result was announced the owner of Barel Of Laughs, who was also third in this race last year and went on to win the Timico Mixed Open Gold Cup Final Hunters' Chase, Peter Andrews, commented: "We were third last year and we were hoping he would run well, but it wasn't quite his ground.
"It was a super run and what a great ride by Alex (Edwards). He gave him a lovely ride round.
"And we are delighted with are trainer, Phil Rowley, what a trainer he is - brilliant.
"We have had horses with Alan King for a while and we had one that had a bit of an issue and we wanted to bring him back. It was recommended by Willie Jenks that we try Phil. We have been with him now for a good few years.
"There is no finer place than here (Cheltenham), it is absolutely lovely."
Rowley added: "I don't think that if Alex had got off and carried the horse he could have done any more.
"I think we will probably come straight back here for the Timico final, a bit better ground...
"The ground today probably slowed up his momentum. He is not the biggest or strongest of horses to gallop through it. It probably took out a bit of his sting.
"But it is the same for all of them!"
IT'S THE TOPS FOR MORGAN AND WEATHERBY
Leicestershire-based point-to-point trainer Kelly Morgan was delighted to finish second in the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase with Top Wood.
The 11-year-old, who is owned by Johnny Weatherby and was ridden by Sam Davies-Thomas, only finished a neck behind 25/1 winner Pacha Du Polder at odds of 50/1.
Morgan said: "We bought him with this race in mind last March at Ascot Sales, but weren't sure the dream would happen. He was known for being a bit quirky but we knew he was super-talented, so we took a bit of a chance and it's paid off. I think if we had jumped the last better we would nearly have won. I can't really believe it!"
It was a dead-heat for third place between Cousin Pete (66/1) and Barel Of Laughs (14/1).
Cousin Pete was ridden by Nick Phillips, who farms locally near Northleach, and trained by his head girl Elizabeth Brown. Nick's late father John bred the horse, which is named after Nick's cousin, point-to-point trainer and jockey Pete Mason.
Phillips, who was having his first ride in the race, said: "It was awesome. It was horrible ground, but he tried and tried and tried. I was surprised where I was coming down the hill [in second place] but he just hit the soft ground and started to tire. If he had jumped the last two, he might have won! It's very special, and I miss my old man, who bred him."