Close Brothers: Fleming and O’Regan combine with Tully

Tully East (13) puts in a good jump under Denis O'Regan

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Fleming and O'Regan combine with Tully East By David Jennings 5:49PM 14 MAR 2017

Report: Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday
Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase (Listed)
2m4f, 5yo+

THE first line of Rudyard Kipling's most famous work came to mind as Denis O'Regan gracefully glided through the pack in the day one finale.

"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs" is how it goes for those of you unfamiliar with it, and that is exactly what O'Regan did on Tully East as he celebrated his first festival winner since coaxing home Cape Tribulation in the 2012 Pertemps Final.

O'Regan was lucky to avoid the stricken Foxtail Hill at the first fence away from the stands on the final circuit and also did remarkably well to stay on board when Burtons Well departed down the back straight.

Winning trainer Alan Fleming likened it to an obstacle course, but the man on board negotiated it like a routine piece of work on the Curragh gallops.

Fleming said: "Denis is very astute and clever. He is some man for the big day. This horse ran a cracker in the Martin Pipe last year. He has a lot of ability and when he gets a clear run he'll be very good."

Fleming was honest in summing up the campaign so far, saying: "We've had an up and down season, there's no point in talking rubbish and saying we haven't. We have.

"It's been tough at times as it's been very stop-start, but this makes up for it."

The trainer, for whom this was a first festival winner, summed it up by saying: "An awesome jockey. An awesome horse. An awesome owner. An awesome day."

For "awesome" owner Barry Connell it was a strange hour. His 2015 festival winner Martello Tower had picked up a nasty fracture in the previous race, the National Hunt Chase, but he was consoled by Tully East, a horse he has always had huge faith in.

"This is a mad place," he said. "One minute you've a horse injured, the next you're in the winner's enclosure.

"Tully East should have won the Martin Pipe last year. He has loads of boot and I knew coming down the hill he was running away. He was nearly brought down twice, so it was some performance."

O'Regan was just as cool after the race as he was during it. "That was tremendous," he reflected. "You need your share of luck and we got it on the day. I had enough horse to get me out of trouble."

A modest response to a masterful ride if ever there was one.

Willy Twiston-Davies, who took a heavy fall from favourite Foxtail Hill was taken to hospital where he was reported to have fractured his T8 and T9 verterbrae as well as some cracked ribs.

Tully East's victory edged Ireland in front in the Betbright Prestbury Cup, the green army leading 4-3 at the close of day one.

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