Champion Hurdle success for Jezki
Published 11/03/2014 | 15:52
Jezki got the better of My Tent Or Yours to claim victory in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Jessica Harrington's charge travelled powerfully in the hands of Barry Geraghty and loomed large alongside dual winner Hurricane Fly rounding the home turn.
Tony McCoy's mount My Tent Or Yours, like Jezki carrying the colours of JP McManus, came to challenge Jezki after the final flight but the Irish raider dug deep to prevail by a neck.
The New One finished strongly to grab third spot, having been hampered by the fall of Our Conor early in the race.
Hurricane Fly had to settle for fourth.
There was a strong pace from the outset in the two-mile showpiece, with Captain Cee Bee challenged by Our Conor, just ahead of hat-trick seeking 11-4 favourite Hurricane Fly.
The decisive moment in the race was Our Conor's heavy fall at the third flight, severely compromising The New One's chance in the process.
Hurricane Fly travelled with his usual zest in the hands of Ruby Walsh and moved sweetly to the lead, but it was clear 9-1 shot Jezki had much more to give, sporting a hood for the first time.
Harrington's charge moved to the lead on the run to the final flight and jumped it well, but My Tent Or Yours emerged as a serious threat in the hands of McCoy.
The champion jockey threw everything at the Nicky Henderson-trained runner-up, but Jezki was not for passing.
Jezki had been ridden in his four previous starts this season by McCoy.
Geraghty, now unbeaten in five outings on Jezki, said: "He's a great little horse. He had good form and he didn't have a lot to find with the best of them. I don't think his price reflected his chance.
"It was also a great run by the runner-up. I'm sure JP (McManus) will be delighted with the first two home. The runner-up was getting to me, I needed the line.
"I've been riding winners for Jessie since I was 17 or 18. She's been great to me over the years with the likes of Moscow Flyer and it's great to do it again here for her."
Harrington said: "It's fantastic, it really is. It's great to be in this position.
"He's a great favourite of mine. He's a great horse and Barry has a great record on him.
"I always had great faith in the horse. He's a smashing horse, he really is.
"He relaxed well (in a first-time hood) and he got through the preliminaries, which was great.
"The horse battled terrifically well."
McManus said: "The National Hunt season centred around the Champion Hurdle for me because I didn't have any Gold Cup horses and I'm unlikely to win the Grand National.
"The Champion Hurdle was all-important and full marks to everybody - Nicky (Henderson), Jessie (Harrington) and Eddie (Harty) to have their horses looking in mint condition as well as all the other runners in the race. They were all a credit.
"It's a very special day."
The New One's trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "He definitely lost more ground than he was beaten through no fault of his own. It was just very hard luck.
"In the Christmas Hurdle he was unlucky and he was unlucky here. Let's hope we can stop it.
"What could Sam (Twiston-Davies) say? I was so proud of him, having been dealt a very bad hand, the way he got the horse back in the race very gently and there at the last, so well done him.
"I'm wondering just how good our horse is. He hasn't proved it today but maybe he is very, very good.
"If he's OK, we'll certainly go to Aintree."
Despite being treated at length on the track, Our Conor, such a brilliant winner of the Triumph Hurdle 12 months ago, had to be put down as a result of his injuries.
The British Horseracing Authority tweeted: "Sad to confirm that Our Conor, after extensive treatment by veterinary surgeons, was humanely put down due to a suspected serious back injury."
In the OLBG Mares' Hurdle, Quevega raced into the record books with a sixth successive victory.
But the 10-year-old, sent off the 8-11 favourite in the hands of faithful partner Ruby Walsh, was made to work hard by her stable companion Glens Melody until getting her head in front in the final 100 yards.
Quevega was surpassing the legendary Golden Miller, who won five successive Cheltenham Gold Cups from 1932-36, and did so in her own inimitable style, making eyecatching progress and moving into third place before the final hurdle.
From there the sights were set on Paul Townend and Glens Melody before she strode away up the hill to take her place in the record books, scoring by three-quarters of a length with L'Unique the same distance back in third.
Western Warhorse caused a huge upset in the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy, while V autour won the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.