Finians Rainbow - Cheltenham 14/03/2012

Finian's Rainbow produces a great leap during the Champion Chase

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

Finian's downs Sizing in dramatic Champion

Report: Cheltenham Festival, Wednesday Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) 2m Old course, 5yo+

FINIAN'S RAINBOW capped a magic day for trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Barry Geraghty as he edged out reigning champion Sizing Europe in a dramatic Champion Chase.

Front-runner Wishfull Thinking crashed out at the fence in front of the stands with a circuit to go, injuring a photographer, and that led to achain reaction of events that threatened to mar the race.

With Wishfull Thinking's jockey Richard Johnson and the photographer lying injured, officials decided to omit the fence next time round, which meant the runners had to bypass what would have been the last.

Confusion reigned for a few moments, however, as Andrew Lynch on Sizing Europe looked like jumping the fence before changing his mind at the last moment when spotting the chequered flag and veering sharply right towards Finian's Rainbow.

Sizing Europe and Finian's Rainbow came close to each other but in the end Geraghty's mount forged clear and was a length and a quarter to the good at the line, scoring at 4-1 from the 4-5 favourite. There was 15 lengths back to third-placed Big Zeb.

It was a third victory on the day for Geraghty and Henderson, although the trainer went on to notch a four-timer with Fred Winter winner Une Artiste.

Richard Johnson riding Wishful Thinking falls during The Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase at Cheltenham

Wishfull Thinking's fall through the rails sparked a dramatic series of events

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

The photographer was later named as Jean-Charles Briens, who was treated for cuts after the race, while Johnson, taken to an ambulance on a stretcher, was stood down for the rest of the afternoon.

Henderson, celebrating his 43rd win at the Cheltenham Festival and his fourth at this year's meeting, said: "I just hope everybody is all right, that is seriously important. It was a great race and it was a pity they did not have thefence there as it was a tremendous race between two great chasers."

Three boards were put up in front of the fence after Wishfull Thinking fell, but by the time the runners turned for home two of them had been taken out in order to make one board on the inside of the track, with the flag man standing inside the rails.

It seemed this might have given the impression to the jockeys that they would be able to jump the fence on the outside.

William Nunneley, the BHA's head of stewarding, said: "I know there was some confusion about where the chevrons were. The reason that they were on the inside is that they are there to tell the jockeys which way to go but also to protect anything on the other side of the fence. A jockey can manoeuvre around the fence but a loose horse might jump it."

Henry de Bromhead, trainer of Sizing Europe, said: "We haven't discussed it yet, but Andrew [Lynch] said the last lost him the race."

Henderson had earlier passed Fulke Walwyn's record as the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival and Michael Buckley, owner of Finian's Rainbow, said: "I wouldn't have any jumps horses if it was not for Nicky. We have been together since the early 1980s and I can't imagine doing it with anybody else.

"It is another notch in his long career and I am pleased and proud to be part of it."  

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