In what was billed the race of the Cheltenham Festival, owner JP McManus celebrated a 1-2, with Jezki coming home ahead of My Tent Or Yours in the Champion Hurdle.
A crowd of 57,098, a record for the opening day, gathered at Cheltenham racecourse to see the Jessica Harrington-trained Jezki take the feature race of day one of the Festival (11 March).
Jezki dug deep under Barry Geraghty to come home a neck ahead of Nicky Henderson’s My Tent Or Yours, ridden by AP McCoy.
“It’s fantastic and a great to be in this position,” said Harrington. “He’s a great favourite of mine and Barry has a great record on him.”
Jockey Barry Geraghty, who is unbeaten when riding Jezki, said the horse’s 9-1 starting price did not reflect his chance.
“He is a great little horse. He had good form and we didn’t have an awful lot to find with the best of them,” he said.
The race had been set to be a showdown between The New One and old favourite, Hurricane Fly.
The New One, who was hampered by Our Conor falling, finished strongly for 3rd.
But record breaking Hurricane Fly, who has notched up 19 Grade One wins, had to settle for 4th.
The 10-year-old had been aiming for a 3rd win in the race — after winning in 2011 and 2013.
“Hurricane Fly travelled well and jumped well but didn’t quicken and I was disappointed with the way he stopped,” said jockey Ruby Walsh.
“He might not have been good enough to win but he folded and that’s the thing that has me puzzled.”
Jezki’s victory means that McManus is now the most successful owner in the history of the race, with five wins, including Istabraq (1998, 1999, 2000) and Binocular in 2010.
“I am ecstatic about having the winner and the 2nd, it means an awful lot to me,” said McManus.
“It was a credit to everybody and it’s just a very special day.
The race was marred by the death of last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner, 5-year-old Our Conor. He fell at the 3rd and was put down after suffering a back injury.
Quevega makes history
Irish super mare Quevega claimed her 6th successive Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham today (11 March).
The 10-year-old, who was sent off 8/11 favourite, took the race by just three quarters of a length from stablemate Glens Melody.
Quevega, by Robin Des Champs, was recording her 9th consecutive win since 2010. She has only run at Punchestown and Cheltenham in the past 4 years.
“Quevega’s just something else and the mare did the talking today,” said trainer Willie Mullins.
“She’s got stamina, speed and everything. She’s just class — what more can I say? I’m so pleased for her and she has her own place in history now.
He added that they might go for a 7th race next year.
Quevega provided Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins with their 2nd win of the day, after success in the opening race, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Vautour.
“She’s a great little mare,” said Walsh, who was celebrating his 40th Festival win.
“That’s the quickest ground that she has run on and I was fairly panicking off the bend but she was good.”