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Pluck of Irish lands Solwhit the World Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival
A PATCHED up Solwhit and Paul Carberry delivered Ireland’s first Ladbrokes World Hurdle winner for nearly two decades at the Cheltenham Festival.
The nine-year-old was off the track for two years because of a leg injury, only returning to action last December, while the jockey missed Queen Mother Champion Chase day on Wednesday because of ligament damage in a shoulder.
The pair dusted themselves down and produced a remarkable performance – Solwhit dispatching any questions over whether he stayed in the three-mile contest by surging up the Prestbury Park hill once Celestial Halo blundered at the final flight.
It was the classy, but under-rated, horse’s seventh Group 1 victory as County Limerick’s Charles Byrnes trained an Irish-based winner for the first time since Dorans Pride was victorious in 1995.
Bog Warrior pushed the field along and still looked to have plenty of running approaching the second last.
As his name suggests, though, he needed softer ground and emptied out as the challengers swamped him.
Celestial Halo, a huge 40-1 outsider for a Paul Nicholls yard which had won the last four World Hurdles with Big Buck’s, was produced to challenge but Solwhit was travelling strongly as the duo sprinted to the last obstacle.
And it was Celestial Halo who buckled, hitting the top of the hurdle and stumbling on landing – leaving the way clear for Solwhit to surge home for a two and a half length victory.
Carberry was understandably joyous on the journey back to the winner’s enclosure.
He said: “I got a bad bang on the shoulder the other day – it just hurt my ligaments and tendons.
“I had a couple of shots in it on Wednesday which didn’t work but my doctor, who is very good, came over and gave me an injection and it worked. Fortunately the racecourse doctor passed me fit to ride.”
He added: “The English have been dominating this race for a long time and there was also the French horse Baracouda, so it’s great to ride an Irish winner.
“Solwhit is a class horse over two miles and he stayed this trip.”
Byrnes, whose horse was winning in just his third run back, said he never lost faith in his stable star.
“In the past he was one of the few horses who could put it up to Hurricane Fly,” he added.
“We always believed he still had all his old ability, and he’s proved he hadn’t lost it.
“It’s been a real team effort from all at the yard to get him back to this level and he has really come together in the last couple of weeks.”