CHELTENHAM, England (Reuters) - Nico de Boinville, a professional jockey for barely a year, and unheralded trainer Mark Bradstock landed the most prestigious prize of the English jump-racing season when Coneygree led from pillar to post to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday.
De Boinville’s pass-me-if-you-can tactics in his first Gold Cup ride paid off as the lightly-raced 7-1 chance reveled in the rain-softened ground, digging deep to fend off the fast-finishing Djakadam (10-1) and Road to Riches (8-1).
“Words can’t describe it without using expletives. Unbelievable,” De Boinville said.
”I always knew I had enough left (to hang on).
“It was a great plan (to go for the Gold Cup). They knew the weather gods were looking down on us -- the rain came at the right time.”
Coneygree had a length and a half in hand at the line at the end of two stamina-sapping circuits of the Prestbury Park course, becoming the first novice chaser to win the showpiece since 1974. A horse is deemed a novice if it has not won over hurdles or fences before the start of the season.
Bradstock heads a small family-run stable with his wife Sara in Oxfordshire and they relish taking on the big guns of the jumping world with cheaply-bought horses.
“He’s a fantastic horse. We’ve done it before in smaller races and we will still keep doing it, but it’s fantastic to do it on the big stage,” said the trainer.
Sara added: ”It means anyone can do it. It doesn’t need hundreds of thousands. He doesn’t know he’s a novice, does he?
“I’ve been saying when we win the Gold Cup in the same sentence as I say when we win the lottery, and I don’t even do the lottery. So that’s how amazing it is.”
There was to be no fairytale third Gold Cup triumph for retiring champion jockey Tony McCoy, who was ninth on Carlingford Lough, his final ride in the race before he quits the saddle next month.
All-conquering Irish trainer Willie Mullins still awaits a first Gold Cup after finishing second for the fifth time but he later had the satisfaction of entering the record books when he chalked up his seventh and eighth winners of a memorable week -- the most by a trainer at a single Festival.
Mullins saddled a 1-2-3 in winning the Champion Hurdle with Faugheen on Tuesday, one of four winners on the day, and continued his success all week.
Editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis