50 up for Walsh as Hercules is too strong

Ruby Walsh rode his 50th Cheltenham Festival winner as Black Hercules claimed an eventful renewal of the JLT Novices’ Chase.

Black Hercules had been switched from the 4m National Hunt Chase in favour of this 2m4f Grade 1 and he stayed on well after the last to beat Bristol De Mai by three lengths.

The victory ensured Walsh reached a festival milestone and also provided trainer Willie Mullins and owner Graham Wylie with the opening-race winner for the second day running.

There was drama at the start when, with the runners forced to go from a standing start, the turning Zabana unseated Davy Russell and slightly hampered Outlander.

Outlander was soon on terms as Black Hercules and Bristol De Mai, who hit the third fence, led through the early stages.

Walsh allowed Black Hercules to settle in third for a spell before bringing his mount back alongside Bristol De Mai on the run towards the top of the hill.

At the notoriously trappy fourth last, the leader Bristol De Mai nodded on landing, while both Garde La Victoire and Black Hercules’ stablemate Outlander fell.

Black Hercules appeared to be travelling the best turning into the straight, only for L’Ami Serge to surge past on the outside in the hands of Nico de Boinville.

L’Ami Serge jumped left across Black Hercules at the second last and, after getting in tight at the last, his petrol tank soon started to edge towards empty.

In contrast, Black Hercules found plenty for Walsh as he powered up the hill to beat the running-on Bristol De Mai, with L’Ami Serge in third.

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