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Cheltenham Festival Day Two: Sire De Grugy the star

By Alysen Miller, CNN
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
Jamie Moore rode Sire de Grugy to victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Jamie Moore rode Sire de Grugy to victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
  • Day Two of the Cheltenham Festival took place Wednesday
  • Faugheen won the Novices' Hurdle with Ruby Walsh in saddle
  • Sire de Grugy won the Queen Mother Champion Chase
  • Whisper wins Coral Cup

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(CNN) -- It was a case of déjà vu at Cheltenham on Wednesday as Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins took the opening race for a second day in a row.

Favorite Faugheen proved too classy for rivals in the Novices' Hurdle, powering away from Ballyalton and Rathvinden to land another win for flamboyant American owner Rich Ricci.

"Gosh, that was magic wasn't it?" former banker Ricci told reporters. "He was just brilliant. He's been a very hard horse to keep right but Willie and Ruby have done a fantastic job with him."

Sprinter Sacre, one of the brightest stars of National Hunt racing, is sadly absent from this year's Festival as vets continue to ponder his irregular heartbeat, but the magnificent Selle Francais did have a representative in the winners' enclosure in the shape of jockey Nico de Boinville.

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Sprinter Sacre's regular work rider got up on Whisper to deny AP McCoy on Get Me Out of Here in a photo finish in the day's main handicap.

Beating perennial Champion jockey McCoy added to the pleasure for amateur De Boinville, who said:"I was very, very worried when I could see him coming up to me, but it's such a great feeling when they jump and travel as well as my horse did. I didn't have a clue that I'd won -- you don't dream this sort of thing happens."

In the day's feature race, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Sire de Grugy produced the fairytale ending that connections and neutrals were hoping for by running away with the title by six lengths from Somersby and Module.

Purchased for £35,000 as a 50th birthday present for businessman Steve Preston by 50 of his friends and family, Sire de Grugy runs in silks inspired by Preston's other passion, Crystal Palace football club.

It was not just the Preston family who were celebrating the win; the horse is trained by Gary Moore, who also owns a 25% share, and ridden by his son Jamie.

It was Jamie, in fact, who discovered the horse at a small French breeding operation and persuaded his father to take the plunge. His insistence resulted in his first Cheltenham winner.

"This means so much to me and my family," said trainer Gary. "It's something I thought could happen but these things don't happen very often. I suppose I'm very lucky to have such a great family. I'm proud of all of them."

First to congratulate the Preston family was Ricci himself, whose own representative in the race, Arvika Legionnierre, was pulled up before the finish.

There could scarcely be a greater contrast between first-time owner Preston and Ricci, one of the sport's most prominent figures.

Ricci, of course, also owns Annie Power, one of the revelations of this jumps season. The super mare puts her undefeated record on the line in Thursday's feature race, the World Hurdle, where she will face four-time winner Big Buck's.

Meanwhile, former footballer Michael Owen may not want to give up the day job just yet.

On the opening day of the festival he successfully tipped three winners in a row. But on Wednesday he was notably less successful. Only one of his three fancied horses ran a place -- Shaneshill in the 5:15.

Unfortunately Owen had tipped it to win.

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