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Cheltenham

  • 14:05 Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle 2m 1f

  • (Grade 3) £80,000 added 5yo+ 28 ran
  • Winner £45,560 2nd £17,096 3rd £8,560 4th £4,264
  • Going: Good, Good to Soft in places
  • Surface: Turf
    Weighed In
  • Winning time: 3m 58.50s
  • Off time: 14:08:47

Cheltenham Festival: Lac Fontana wins County Hurdle to end Paul Nicholls' drought

Last Updated: 14/03/14 3:20pm

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Lac Fontana: Paul Nicholls can finally celebrate a Festival winner

Lac Fontana: Paul Nicholls can finally celebrate a Festival winner

Paul Nicholls secured his first winner of the 2014 Cheltenham Festival when Lac Fontana came late to win the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle.

Nicholls' luckless run had continued when Calipto's tack broke in the opening Triumph Hurdle, but 35 minutes later he and jockey Daryl Jacob were able to celebrate an 11/1 winner.

As befits a 28-runner handicap, there were still more than a dozen horses in with a chance rounding the home turn, the field led by the strong-travelling former Champion Bumper winner Cheltenian.

But Montbazon and Rainbow Peak soon had that one's measure and Arctic Fire came there with a strong challenge under David Casey, as champion trainer Willie Mullins looked for yet another winner to boost the camp after Ruby Walsh suffered serious injury in the opener.

However it was to be a home winner on this occasion as Jacob brought the previous course and distance winner - who had dropped back with a mistake before halfway - with a flying run up the stands rail to score by half-a-length.

Arctic Fire (7/1) finished second ahead of the fading Montbazon (20/1) with another Mullins runner Diakali claiming fourth place at 25/1.

Jacob admitted the week had not been one he had particularly enjoyed and admitted it was tough to be too excited given the latest piece of injury news.

Testing

"It's been a very testing week for us all," he said. "It's a good team effort from everyone and at the end of the day there can only be one winner. You can only keep looking forward.

"We're all thinking about the guys that are injured, like Jason (Maguire), Bryan (Cooper), now Ruby (Walsh) and of course JP (McNamara) but this is the place we all want to win.

"He's very, very tough and he kept finding all the way."

Nicholls added: "It's been so frustrating. Daryl probably needed that more than anyone really, he was on a real down and that will be just what he wanted," the Ditcheat handler said.

"I told him to just get out there, put everything behind him and that this will win, you have to be positive.

"I told him he'll stay on up the hill and he gave him a peach. He's quite an emotional guy and you need a bit of luck, he'll be a different rider now. That was magic, just what we wanted."

There was a sad postscript for Jacob, though, as he fell from Port Melon while going down for the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle and was stretchered away with a leg injury.

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