GBI RACING

William Henry leaves it late to take Coral Cup spoils

William Henry (blue and white) flashes home to win the Coral Cup

William Henry came from the clouds to deny top-weight Wicklow Brave in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham.

Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old had only been seen once this year, being pulled up at Wincanton on Boxing Day and subsequently undergoing surgery on his wind.

Sent off a relatively unconsidered 28-1 chance, Nico de Boinville looked to have a mountain to climb turning into the straight as he battled to better his fourth in the race 12 months ago.

It was Paul Nicholls’ Brio Conti who looked to be going better than anything, but then Patrick Mullins appeared on the scene on Wicklow Brave, a former Irish St Leger winner and Grade One-winning hurdler.

Just as Willie Mullins looked set to notch his third win of the week, William Henry began to charge home and won by a short head, with Ballyandy battling on for third and Brio Conti fading into fourth.

After seconds in the first two races for Henderson with Champ and Santini, he registered a winner from an unlikely source.

The Seven Barrows trainer said: “He is funny as he doesn’t really like Cheltenham, but he actually ran very well in it last year. He just tends to do everything going right, which is not ideal.

“We started the day with a couple of seconds and when you get that close you think three seconds would not be fair, but he just about got there.

“He was always out the back and I was watching Burbank and Apple’s Shakira and I thought he was too far back. It was a great ride as he is not the easiest to ride. I just thought it might be too soft for him.

“He really has to go right-handed. We ran him over fences here first time and by the second he was out near the car park!

“We had to revert him to hurdles, but if they win races like that you don’t mind. He gives Dai (Walters, owner) a lot of pleasure as he was named after his father.”

Joseph O’Brien is now officially a Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer after Band Of Outlaws defied trouble in running to win the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

Well backed late on, he was sent off the 7-2 favourite under J J Slevin – and the jockey had to hold his nerve approaching the last.

The gap between Praeceps and Coko Beach closed up, forcing him to switch to the outside, but he had plenty in hand despite the traffic problems.

Band Of Outlaws quickened up in fine style to win going away – and after being credited with the training of Ivanovich Gorbatov in the Triumph Hurdle in 2016 before he was officially a trainer, O’Brien now has one in his own name.

O’Brien said: “I’m delighted. J J gave him a fantastic ride. I’m over the moon.

“It’s my first Cheltenham winner, which is great. We had a couple of horses run well – two seconds and a fourth and a fifth – so it’s nice to get a winner.

“This is Cheltenham and it’s special to have any winner here.

“He was working well at home and I’m delighted it’s worked out.”

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