Relief for Harry Fry as In Excelsis Deo wins Silver Trophy

A difficult winter finished on a high for Harry Fry as Hymac completed a 25-1 Cheltenham double for the yard in the 3m4f handicap chase. 

His hard-fought success followed on from a change of fortune for JP McManus's In Excelsis Deo in the Grade 2 Matt Hampson Foundation Silver Trophy. The six-year-old had unseated when challenging at Sandown in February and he endured a nightmare trip before finishing strongly into fifth in the Plate at the Cheltenham Festival.

Yet, despite needing to be put under plenty of pressure from Jonathan Burke, he charged to victory by four and three-quarter lengths.

"It's not been the best of winters, to put it mildly, so to come here and have two nice winners, it's great," Fry said. "The two horses have been progressing but not getting there through the course of season, so it's nice to finish on a high note.

"I'm relieved to finally get In Excelsis Deo's head in front. We've been in various spots in this winner's enclosure, so it's good to have finally won. He's been running well and stayed consistent without having the luck in running. 

"Johnny gave him a lovely ride, nursing him into it, and we thought at the bottom of the hill this was the closest he'd been all season, so we just hoped he'd come up the hill as he had done on a few runs previously."

Hymac had long shown promise but was breaking a drought heading back to a Newton Abbot bumper in 2022.

Fry added: "He was in a great rhythm and it took him two or three runs to really get his confidence over fences. Last time, even though he was runner-up, we were happy with the way he jumped. He was ready to run well in a good race and I'm delighted to see him win."

Wadham record

There is no better setting for a landmark winner than Cheltenham and Zain Nights guaranteed this would be the best jumps season on record for the Newmarket stable with victory in the 3m handicap hurdle.

The progressive five-year-old scaled new heights to strike decisively from the front under Bryony Frost, securing a third win this season for the five-year-old, who joined the yard having raced for three years on the Flat.

It was a 25th winner in a tremendous season for Wadham, who said: "That was fantastic, that's our best-ever total, so I'm very happy. 

"To have done it here was just great. I think we've had a bit better quality this season and they've all been healthy, which helps. We've been banging them in regularly rather than just having that golden spell.

"He's improved for the step up in trip and loved the ground. The last thing we said to Bryony was to be to produce him late, so it was very much plan B. It was the perfect ride though."

Henderson fires back

Nicky Henderson made a welcome return to the Cheltenham winner's enclosure as Peaky Boy emulated the likes of former stable stars Whisper and Might Bite with victory in the 2m4½f novice hurdle.

The six-year-old followed up his win here on New Year's Day to see off Diamond Ri impressively, giving his trainer a first success at the track since Sir Gino's win on Trials Day in January.

"It's a long time since I've been here," joked Henderson. "He's a nice horse who has a future over fences. His first run here took a bit out of him and he's a bit like that. He'll strengthen up and toughen up, but will be lovely to go chasing with next season."

100 not out

Attentions in the Fergal O'Brien camp were focused on the retirement of stable jockey Paddy Brennan, but the trainer reached a century of winners for the fourth consecutive season after Tintintin landed the 2m1f handicap hurdle for Tom Broughton.