03/14/2012 11:30AM

Cheltenham: Finian’s Rainbow wins spill-marred Queen Mother Champion Chase


CHELTENHAM, England – Finian’s Rainbow, a 9-year-old Irish-bred gelding, won Wednesday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles at Cheltenham Racecourse, a race marred by a spill that forced the field to avoid the last fence.

Finian’s Rainbow (4-1) rallied from just off the pace through the final half-mile to outfinish 4-5 favorite and defending champion, Sizing Europe, by 1 1/4 lengths. Big Zeb finished third in the field of eight, 16 1/4 lengths behind the winner.

The last fence, which was supposed to be the 13th, was eliminated after Wishfull Thinking fell on the first circuit, unseating jockey Richard Johnson. Johnson was being treated by ambulance personnel as the field approached the fence for the final time.

As a result, Finian’s Rainbow and Sizing Europe were directed around the fence, resulting in a run-in from the last jumped fence to the finish of more than a quarter-mile.

Johnson was taken off his mounts for the rest of the seven-race program, which had three races remaining.

Finian’s Rainbow was ridden by Barry Geraghty for trainer Nicky Henderson, and represented their third consecutive win on the afternoon as a team. Henderson, 51, became the all-time leading trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday, with 43 wins.

He began the day tied with the late Fukle Walwyn, who won 40 races.