Rock the World and Shantou Flyer score for Irish at Cheltenham
On the day that Cheltenham opened its doors for the season and unveiled part of its new grandstand, the Irish raiders departed with a double courtesy of Rock The World and Shantou Flyer.
In justifying evens favouritism with a polished round of jumping and galloping from the front in the novices' chase, Rock The World was ensuring something akin to normal service resumed in the Cotswolds for Jessica Harrington and Barry Geraghty.
"He jumped very well," Harrington said after the seven-year-old's two-length victory. "He's going to go on holiday now and won't run again until the spring. He's done me well this summer and deserves a break."
Shantou Flyer's 14/1 last-gasp coup couldn't have been more contrasting in nature.
Whereby Rock The World always looked in control of his destiny in the two-miler, the Colin Bowe-trained five-year-old was lucky not to be brought down in the three-mile equivalent when the favourite Vintage Vinnie fell three-out.
Shantou Flyer then crashed through the second-last fence, and still didn't look likely to win when crossing the last four lengths back in fourth place.
Mark Walsh's mount flew that, though, and showed terrier-like qualities up the hill that could by now be described as characteristic. He reeled in the leaders to eventually score by a scarcely believable length-and-a-half.
The thrilling climax ensured Bowe's first winner in England, and, more to the point, it was his and Walsh's breakthrough success at the famous Cotswolds venue.
"He's only a five-year-old and is still learning his trade," the wily Wexford handler beamed of his three-time chase victor."
Shantou Flyer was quoted at odds of 20/1 to make a success reappearance in the amateur riders' event next March.
John Ferguson's Penglai Pavilion (11/4), which earlier stretched its 100pc record over hurdles to three for Aidan Coleman, was cut to 16/1 for the Neptune Novices' Hurdle.