UNFANCIED 22-1 shot Punjabi won the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle in a hard-fought finish from favourites Celestial Halo and Binocular for trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Barry Geraghty. It was a fourth winner in the race for Henderson, who took it in 1985, 1986 and 1987 with See You Then.
Six-year-old Punjabi was third in the Champion Hurdle, the highlight of the first day of the Cheltenham Festival, last year. He went on to win at Punchestown, but his campaign this season was blighted by a heavy fall in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and he could only finish third behind Ashkazar last month at Wincanton.
Owned by renowned divorce lawyer Raymond Tooth, the horse is British-bred by Komaite. Henderson also trained 6-4 favourite Binocular, third home under AP McCoy. Last year’s winner, Katchit, finished sixth for H&H columnist Robert Thornton.
Nina Carberry led home a 1-2-3 for owner JP McManus in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase on Garde Champetre — the third year in a row the Irish amateur rider has won the race. It was a suitable celebration for McManus’ 58th birthday, following the success of his Wichita Lineman under AP McCoy in the William Hill Chase.
Don’t miss H&H’s full report on all the action from Cheltenham, on sale 19 March, ’09