RICHIE MCLERNON enjoyed his well-deserved moment in the spotlight as he steered Johns Spirit to victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.
McLernon is usually called up by Jonjo O'Neill only when Tony McCoy is unavailable, but the jockey has struck up a good association with the gelding and they had already enjoyed course success at the October meeting.
Johns Spirit (7-1) was restrained some way behind Easter Meteor and Hidden Cyclone, who were still in the thick of things until the second-last when the former came down and slightly impeded the gaining Colour Squadron.
McLernon, who had appeared in contention on the outside, suddenly had a clear advantage which quickly dwindled to three-quarters of a length as Colour Squadron returned to the fray. "This means a lot," said McLernon.
"I'm working very hard in the yard every day, just being one of the lads, but the boss has been very good to me."
O'Neill, winning the Grade Three for the second time after Exotic Dancer in 2006, said: "It's brilliant for Richie, he's a magic man. He knows the fellow really well and I couldn't be happier for him."
Yesterday at Cheltenham, it was the David Pipe show as the Somerset trainer saddled an incredible 5,995-1 four-timer, headed by Dell' Arca in the feature StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle.
Pipe got the afternoon under way in the perfect fashion, with a one-two in the Mallard Pawnbrokers And Family Jewellers Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle led home by 40-1 shot Home Run.
The Liquidator (6-4) looked destined for stardom when destroying his three rivals in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle, and Red Sherlock (7-2 joint-favourite) rounded it off when retaining his unbeaten record in the Fairlawne Festival Jockey Club Fine Dining Bumper.
So many of the great Pipe days had been shared with the late David Johnson, an owner who had a race named in his memory on Friday, so it was poignant to see his old friend Timmy Murphy wearing the famous blue and green colours on Red Sherlock.
Pipe said: "It puts the icing on the cake. This meeting means a lot to Pond House and the Pipe family. It's fantastic, these days don't happen very often in racing."
Dell'Arca (12-1) appeared an unknown strictly on paper but, having shown much promise in three hurdling starts in France, he had captured the attention of buyers and Pipe had to persuade owner Professor Caroline Tisdall to part with 280,000 euros to get him.
The Liquidator (6-4) had been a Grade One bumper winner, and he looks a serious hurdler as he galloped 15 lengths away from evens favourite Sea Lord.
Emma Lavelle can dream through the winter months after Le Bec lowered some lofty reputations in winning the Roy Blandford 65 Years At Cheltenham Novices' Chase on Saturday, while Royal Irish Hussar, trained by Nicky Henderson, stretched his unbeaten run to three with a game success in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial.