Two pounds proved decisive for Dame De Compagnie (5/1f) in the £100,000 G3 Coral Cup on day two of The Festival™ presented by Magners 2020.
Those who enjoy the sniff of a plot lapped up the news that Nicky Henderson had successfully appealed the official BHA rating of the mare, reducing the mark she was required to race off for this race by two pounds (142 down to 140).
The Barry Geraghty-ridden winner fended off Davy Russell and Black Tears (12/1) by two and a quarter lengths, with Thosedaysaregone (10/1) a further two and a half lengths back in third.
This was winner number four for the winning trainer at the 2020 Festival and followed the victory of Champ in the G1 RSA Insurance Novices' Chase forty minutes previously. It was a 68th winner in total at The Festival for the master of Seven Barrows.
Henderson said: "We thought we had reasonable grounds to appeal it [official rating] and we did win it. In the end it was probably quite important, but I wouldn't want that to be the only story here.
"You are getting into the realms of you don't believe it. You certainly couldn't believe Champ but this is a lovely mare. It's always a very competitive race but she was very good. It wasn't that headlong Coral dash with a lot of horses flat to the boards and anything could have won coming down the hill.
"I could see Burrows Edge was up there and looked to be going well enough and I could just see Barry's white cap bobbing around behind them, so I guess he was happy enough.
"Barry is riding with such confidence, but you still need the luck to get the breaks. She's a lovely, big mare, and she's tough - she could jump a fence.
"The injuries and things that Barry has had over the years and the number of good rides that he has missed. These wise old owls are pretty good guys and I am genuinely thrilled for him because he has been great for the game and he still works. Between him and all the team, it is a bit unreal, really."
2.50pm Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
1 Dame de Compagnie (J P McManus) Nicky Henderson 7-10-12 Barry Geraghty 5/1f
2 Black Tears (Caren Walsh & John Lightfoot) Gordon Elliott IRE 6-11-02 Davy Russell 12/1
3 Thosedaysaregone (Brynes Bloodstock Ltd) Charles Byrnes IRE 7-10-11 Kevin Brouder (3) 10/1
4 Cracking Smart (Gigginstown House Stud) Gordon Elliott IRE 8-11-11 Gavin Brouder (7) 33/1
Distances: 2¼, 2½, 1¼
Tote Win: £5.40 Place: £2.50, £3.30, £3.90, £7.30 Exacta: £79.10
Nicky Henderson - 68th winner at The Festival
Barry Geraghty - 41st winner at The Festival
Geraghty keeps himself in the best Compagnie
Dame De Compagnie gave jockey Barry Geraghty a second consecutive success at The Festival 2020, and a third in total for the week so far when taking the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle by two and a quarter lengths.
The J P McManus-owned mare, a seven-year-old by Lucarno, was the 5/1 favourite and means that trainer Nicky Henderson now has a total of 68 Festival winners to his name.
Geraghty, enjoying a 41st Festival success, said: "She won well. We didn't go much of a gallop and I knew that going out - I was happy to be just behind the pace once she was relaxed. I had a lovely tow off Nico [de Boinville, aboard Burrows Edge] all the way through the race and then Dickie [Johnson, riding Honest Vic] from three-out, although I landed a bit on his heels a little bit at the back of the third-last. She picked up well from the back of the last and it was a good performance.
"I have a great job, I ride for a great man in JP and there is no-one better than Nicky - he is just top-class. He trains them for the day, they are fresh and well, and there is no-one better."
McManus, for whom it was a 62nd Festival win, said: "That was useful!
"I would just like to mention a friend of mine, Joe McKenna. He is not here today - he has been with me here for the last 30-odd years but he is at home at the minute. Just to say we are thinking of you, Joe, and we will have you back here next year.
"Barry was very patient on her. I think that he might have liked them to go a stride faster but she got the business done anyway in the end.
"It looked all over with Champ [his RSA Novices' Chase winner] but Barry gave him a great ride - he kept him a bit wide. I think after falling here the previous day, he maybe thought to get a bit of light and let him do his own thing a bit. It came good in the end and it was very exciting."
Placed jockeys catch Geraghty's vapour-trail
Barry Geraghty is pulling clear in the Holland Cooper Leading Jockey Award for the Ruby Walsh Trophy at The Festival, and he landed his third win of the week when riding Dame De Compagnie to victory in the Coral Cup.
The Nicky Henderson-trained winner Dame De Compagnie (5/1 f) - a fourth win this week for the trainer - beat Black Tears (12/1) by two and a quarter lengths, with Thosedaysaregone (10/1) a further two and a half lengths back in third. The fourth horse, Cracking Smart (33/1) was a further one and a quarter lengths behind in fourth.
Davy Russell, who rode the Gordon Elliott-trained Black Tears, said: "She ran a good race, but just wasn't good enough. She's as game as a pebble and very consistent, but she just ran into one [Dame De Compagnie] today."
Kevin Brouder rode Thosedaysaregone for trainer Charles Byrnes. Brouder said: "We went steady enough early on over the first three hurdles and then we picked up and my horse got into a good rhythm. He jumped really well, but got a bit tired over this trip. On better ground he might have seen it out, but that's his maximum trip for now. I'm very happy with him."