America’s rooting interest in the Cheltenham Festival, Bruton Street’s Franco De Port, was unplaced in Wednesday’s £100,000 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle, which was won by John P. McManus’ 5-to-1 favorite Dame De Compagnie, a French-bred mare trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty.
Trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins and ridden by Paul Townend, Franco De Port was prominent early and reached third position in the first mile of the 2 5/8-mile race. He surrendered a bit of position in the second mile but remained prominent on the inside rail of the left-handed Cheltenham course.
When the field of 25 began to quicken with a half-mile remaining, Franco De Port slipped farther back, was guided to the outside after the next-to-last fence, and was pulled up.
Dame De Compagnie made her bid on the outside rail and rallied up Cheltenham’s closing uphill slope to win by two lengths over Black Tears, trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Nico de Boinville.
The Coral Cup score was the fourth of the Cheltenham Festival for Henderson, who trains from Seven Barrows near Lambourn in Berkshire, England. He trained Michael Buckley’s Brain Power to a victory in America’s richest steeplechase race, the $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), last October. De Boinville was in the saddle for that 15-length score over Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer.
Barry Geraghty also is no stranger to America. He has ridden in the United States and is the brother of Ross Geraghty, who was the National Steeplechase Association’s champion jockey in 2012 and has been the leader by jockey earnings twice, in 2012 and 2018.
Henderson and Barry Geraghty joined forces for a win in Cheltenham’s biggest race so far, the £470,250 Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy on Tuesday with Epatante, another French-bred mare.
Elliott, who has two Cheltenham victories in the championship meet’s first 10 races, also is no stranger to America. He won the 2018 Grand National with Jury Duty, who returned and finished fourth last year. Elliott also trained Rosbrian Farm’s Global Freedom to a victory in Far Hills’ 2019 Gladstone Stakes.
Mullins also had a Far Hills winner, Bruton Street-US’s Pravalaguna, in the Peapack Stakes with Townend aboard.