The Conditional gave his trainer David Bridgwater a first winner at The Festival when taking the G3 Ultima Handicap Chase by a neck from Kildisart. The 15/2 chance, an eight-year-old by Kalanisi ridden by Brendan Powell, won the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase over course and distance (3m 1f) in October.
Bridgwater, who rode five Festival winners as a jockey, said: "What a great jockey! I thought we were stuffed at the second-last when the horse pecked, but it's probably done us a favour, because I didn't want us to hit the front too soon. Fantastic ride.
"He's a good horse - only a baby, still a novice. I was umming and aahing about running him in the RSA Chase. I was half-hoping we would get balloted out of this, but we got in easy and I thought, stuff it. And the betting never gets it wrong, we were favourite, second favourite, so... I fancied him for a place in the RSA, which would have made him a certainty today. His owner, Mr Cave, has been in the game all his life and it was a great day when this horse won here in October, but to do it here, it's amazing.
"I've always been very lucky here, first as a jockey and then a trainer - I know we haven't had many bullets to fire here, but I wouldn't necessarily run a horse here that hasn't got a chance. I'm not a very social person anyway, so I'm definitely not here for the social. But if they've got a chance, we'll come and give it a go.
"I was pretty confident - I was confident last night and I said to Brendan: 'If you are going well at the top of the hill, just fill him up' because I am not sure whether he actually gets the trip. We are still learning about him. He has given that a peach. It's unbelievable, amazing. He is all about next year, really. We've nearly won a Ladbrokes Trophy and now we've won at The Festival - how much higher... Dare to dream, isn't it? When I bought him off Martin Hassett I thought he was possibly a long-term Grand National horse. We'll see. He's only a baby and we're still only learning, but that's a great start.
"I think Brendan is a wonderful jockey and he deserves that because he has had a rough old time last couple of years. We all have down times, trainers, jockeys, and it's very special for him. We have been unlucky with The Giant Bolster, who was placed in the Gold Cup three times, but to have a winner a Cheltenham is beyond belief. If you watch the replay, he's probably the only horse who has had a smooth run. He was never hassled and always travelling."
2.50pm Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
1 The Conditional (Mr P J Cave) David Bridgwater 8-10-06 Brendan Powell 15/2
2 Kildisart (Simon Munir & Isaac Souede) Ben Pauling 8-11-03 Daryl Jacob 10/1
3 Discorama (Andrew Gemmell/Thomas Friel) Paul Nolan IRE 7-11-01 Bryan Cooper 11/2jf
4 Vinndication (Moremoneythan) Kim Bailey 7-11-12 David Bass 11/2jf
Distances: nk, 2¼, nk
Tote Win: £8.50 Places: £2.40, £3.10, £2.20 Exacta: £85.90
David Bridgwater - 1st winner at The Festival
Brendan Powell - 3rd winner at The Festival
Powell has charmed run in the Ultima
The Conditional was the name of the horse, but the man aboard was anything but, as Brendan Powell showed nerves of steel to sneak up the inner and out-stay the rest in the G3 Ultima Handicap Chase on day one of The Festival™ presented by Magners 2020.
A mistake at the second-last threatened to de-rail the serene progress of The Conditional (15/2) as he stalked those in front, but the jockey showed no signs of panic as he thrust his willing partner to the front at the final fence, and fought off Kildisart (10/1) to win by a neck.
This was a third Festival win for Brendan Powell, who said: "It's unbelievable. Obviously, I am lucky enough to have been in this position before but the time in between has been tough. When I was here before, things were going well and I have had a couple of quiet seasons but this season has really brought me back to life.
"I would like to say a massive thanks to David Bridgwater, Michael Scudamore, Lynn and Angus Maclennan, just to name a few. I was really struggling last year for winners and they have brought me back up again."
Powell continued: "I never lacked confidence, but you cannot do it if you're not on the right horses. When you get some momentum, things start to happen and you get on better horses.
"He ran a stormer in the Hennessey back in November, then at Warwick I didn't give him the best ride as I got drawn into the pace down the far side. He probably didn't stay the trip [3m 5f] either. We put the cheekpieces on today - he's not un-genuine but he does save a bit for himself and in these big races you need everything on your side.
"I had a lovely run around the inside. I had to pick him up at the second-last then he winged the last - when he hit the front he pricked his ears briefly, but when he heard the other horse he pulled out more and thankfully held on."
Pauling proud of National-bound Kildisart
Gloucestershire trainer Ben Pauling was delighted, disappointed and optimistic after his Kildisart finished second in the 23-runner G3 Ultima Handicap Chase.
Delighted that his string are back in form after a virus-hit season, disappointed to have been beaten - Kildisart (10/1) went down by a neck to winner The Conditional (15/2) - and yet optimistic that his horse had run a superb trial for the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree next month.
Kildisart, who was ridden for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede by Daryl Jacob, finished two and a quarter lengths ahead of third-placed Discorama (11/2 jt fav) and there was another neck back to Vinndication (11/2 jt fav).
Pauling said: "Daryl gave him an inspired ride and we had to ensure we got a good early position. He travelled and jumped so much better than he has all season, and I was just willing him to come up the hill there. It wasn't quite enough but I'm delighted with him.
"Our horses are right back to form and Daryl is convinced that if the ground had been better he would have won. He's in the National now, and so this was a helluva trial. He did everything right and yet it's still a bitter pill to swallow when you are beaten at this meeting.
"What a run, he just tried so hard. He could go quite well at Aintree, where the ground should be better and we know he stays."
Jacob said: "I was chuffed to bits with him. He didn't enjoy the ground and on better ground the result may have been turned over, but I'm delighted with him."
Vinndication A Fine Fourth For Bailey
Kim Bailey was pleased with the performance of 11/2 joint-favourite Vinndication who finished a fine fourth in the £110,000 G3 Ultima Handicap Chase.
The three miles and one furlong event was won by 15/2 shot The Conditional trained by David Bridgwater.
Ben Pauling's Kildisart (10/1) was a neck behind in second, with the Paul Nolan-trained Discorama (11/2 joint-favourite) two and a quarter-lengths back in third.
Discorama's jockey Bryan Cooper said: "Discorama has run a good race and we have to be pleased with that.
"It's an upgrade on some of his most recent runs and he coped well with the ground."
Bailey, discussing Vinndication, who was a further neck back in fourth said: "Vinndication has run really well and probably just got tired in the ground. He is a lovely horse and he was prominent throughout.
"He jumped well and just got a bit tired in the closing stages, but we're happy with him."
Richard Johnson stood down for the rest of the day
Champion jockey Richard Johnson has been stood down for the rest of the day and will be assessed by the medical officer before racing on Wednesday, 11 March.
Johnson was unseated from Brewin'upastorm four out in the second race, the G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase.
Johnson's remaining rides:
Sixth race, 4.50pm: Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase
No 21 Whatmore now ridden by Tom O'Brien