Henderson dominates Cheltenham
Nicky Henderson's fantastic campaign continued as he secured three prizes restricted to mares on the second day of Cheltenham's April fixture.
The master of Seven Barrows became the winning-most trainer in Cheltenham Festival history during a glorious four days last month and one of his Festival scorers, Une Artiste, returned to the track for the TBA Mares' Novices' Hurdle.
The 40-1 winner of the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle was a more prohibitive 7-4 shot for this Listed contest, second in the betting to Swincombe Flame.
The latter put up a good fight from the front, but Une Artiste breezed by after the final fight under Barry Geraghty to score by a length and three-quarters.
"I have a feeling she's improving and that was smooth today. She's got some more black type and that will be it for the year," Henderson told Racing UK.
Provided all goes well in the next year, Une Artiste could be back at next season's Festival for a clash with the mighty Quevega in the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle.
"She looks stronger and you'd like to think she's a David Nicholson horse. You've got to consider whether she's a worthy opponent for Quevega, but I do," Henderson added.
"It's the obvious race as she stays and she could improve again."
Stablemate Kells Belle had run well in last month's David Nicholson to be beaten a little over six lengths and she comfortably defied top-weight in the OLBG.com Mares' Handicap Hurdle, another Listed prize.
The 8-1 shot showed a neat turn of foot in the testing ground to beat favourite Francesca by five lengths.
"She travelled brilliantly, jumped really well and I was always able to go where I wanted to go. There were never any concerns really," said Geraghty.
Henderson and Geraghty completed their hat-trick with 2-1 joint favourite Glorious Twelfth in the closing mares' bumper.
If those three victories were straightforward, success for Mad Moose was anything but in the 'Albion House' Nicholson Holman Novices' Limited Handicap Chase.
The 6-1 chance seemed hopelessly tailed off
after a mistake running down the hill but the complexion of the race changed in the straight and as both Arctic Ben and Take Of Shoc's got very weary on the run-in, Mad Moose came by to claim an unlikely win.
"He jumped well early on, but he seemed to lose his bottle going out on to the second circuit," said winning rider Sam Twiston-Davies, riding for his father, Nigel.
"We had a few sticky moments and to be fair, a lot of horses would have packed in, but he was very game to keep going."
The classy Ashkazar (6-1) regained winning ways in the Ian Williams Racing Handicap Chase.
Having just his third run over fences and his first since November 2009, the 6-1 chance was given a well judged ride by Timmy Murphy to get the better of Bradley by two and three-quarter lengths.
Murphy said: "He got into a rhythm and enjoyed himself. It was all about the conditions of the race and the way it was run."
Cruchain landed the BetVictor Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Chase for the second year in a row in extraordinary circumstances.
Just five runners went to post, Wester Ross departed early and Tatispout and That's The Deal both fell at the same fence at the top of the hill.
That left Mister Matt with a clear advantage, but he tipped up at the final obstacle, leaving Cruchain (9-2) to come home alone.
A return to the smaller obstacles helped 9-1 shot Michel Le Bon bounce back to form in the Shloer Handicap Hurdle.