The Nice Guy capped an unbeaten first season when following up his Cheltenham win in the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
Trained by Willie Mullins, The Nice Guy was sent off an unconsidered 18-1 chance in the Albert Bartlett and ridden by Sean O’Keeffe, but he saw off stable companion Minella Cocooner and the pair fought out the finish again.
Once again Minella Cocooner attempted to make all – but Paul Townend always had him in his sights and hit the front before the final flight.
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The Nice Guy and Sean O'Keeffe celebrate winning the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle during day four of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Friday March 18, 2022.
While Minella Cocooner bravely fought back to within three-quarters of a length, the 15-8 favourite was always holding him and was cut to 5-1 from 8-1 by Betfair for next season’s Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.
Mullins said: “He totally surprises us and wouldn’t win any sort of race at home on our gallop, but he loves it on grass on the track. He keeps surprising us.
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“There is not a lot of condition on him, he’s a light-framed horse and doesn’t take much training. He’s a unique specimen in his own way. He’s the exact opposite of a morning glory. He does it in the afternoon, which is tremendous.
“I was a little surprised he went on at the second-last, but Paul said he didn’t want to get caught on the inside at the last bend. I think he was idling in front.
“The first two will go chasing next season.”
Bardenstown Lad (blue cap) chases home Albert Bartlett front two The Nice Guy (right) and Minella Cocooner
Jessica Harrington’s Crosshill (15-2) beat Gavin Cromwell’s Vanillier in his maiden hurdle but until the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle had failed to win again.
Back hurdling after finding fences difficult, he just held on in a thrilling finish from Classic Getaway who was demoted to third behind Nicky Henderson’s Fils D’oudairies having been adjudged to have caused interference on the run-in.
Harrington said: “He lost his confidence over fences and was jumping off to one side so it’s fantastic to get that back.
“It wasn’t straightforward today but he’s very tough and he stays very well.
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“Robbie (Power) gave him a great ride and there is no better rider around here.”
Peter Fahey worked his magic again in the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series Final with unconsidered 40-1 chance Ambitious Fellow following up Suprise Package’s win of 12 months ago.
Like last year Fahey fielded a better-fancied runner in Freedom To Dream but he lost all chance when getting involved in a barging match with I A Connect at the second-last, causing that rival to unseat Adrian Heskin.
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“He was bought to be sold but we brought him across to Doncaster and couldn’t get anyone to buy him. Oran Crean, Gerry O’Neill and my wife Ber own him,” said Fahey.
“He goes on nicer ground and we’ll tip away over the summer. I’ve been very lucky in this series.”
Henry de Bromhead’s Life In The Park (9-2) took the opening Adare Manor Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle in the hands of Mikey O’Connor.