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Labaik put his best foot forward to rule Supreme at Cheltenham


Labaik springs a Supreme surprise

Labaik springs a Supreme surprise

Labaik springs a Supreme surprise

Ireland got off to a flying start at the Cheltenham Festival as Labaik won the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by rising star Jack Kennedy, 17, the grey six-year-old belied odds of 25-1 to readily deny compatriot and 3-1 favourite Melon by two and a quarter lengths.

"Words can't describe what it's like," Kennedy told ITV Racing.

"I was probably a little bit far back but they went a good gallop.

"It couldn't have gone any better."

Labaik's career had been blighted by truculence as he has twice refused to race and was hardly a willing runner when sixth at Naas last month.

He benefited from a stealthy Kennedy ride as he only burst into contention when the long-time leader Cilaos Emery faded after the last flight.

The much-vaunted Melon turned in a really accomplished display for one so inexperienced, but Ruby Walsh's partner could simply not live with the winner, who was providing Kennedy with a first Festival triumph.

River Wylde finished third but was another eight lengths in arrears.

Elliott said: "He could have gone to Naas on Sunday, I said to the lads it wouldn't be as embarrassing if he refuses there.

"It just all worked out today. I told Jack if he jumped off to just hunt around and ride him for a place.

"I've always said he's our best work horse in the yard.

"I don't care if he never jumps off again!"

Kennedy added: "I always enjoyed watching it (as a boy) and it's great to get a taste of it.

"Everyone wants more, but I'll be going home a very happy lad at the end of the week now, however things go. It's brilliant."

PA Media