Irish runner Jezki has given jockey Barry Geraghty his second win in the Champion Hurdle and trainer Jessica Harrington her first on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
The six-year-old won in a thrilling finish from My Tent Or Yours, who, like the winner, is owned by JP McManus and was ridden by Tony McCoy who had opted for the ride on the runner-up rather than the winner.
Hurricane Fly was well held for fourth in his bid to win the race for the third time.
“He is a great little horse and his price (9-1) didn’t reflect his chances in the race,” Geraghty said after he added the win to his 2009 victory on Punjabi.
“It is always brilliant when you are on the right side of the result, he travelled really well and jumped really well. This is what it is all about as a jockey.”
For Harrington it was her first win in the race having previously finished second and third.
“It’s fantastic, it really is. It’s great to be in this position,” she said.
“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.”
McManus became the first owner to have a one-two in the race but said his thoughts were with Harrington’s seriously ill husband.
“It is a very very special day but I am thinking of Jonny Harrington sitting back watching this in Ireland, and we hope he will be at Cheltenham with us next year,” McManus said.
“I feel sorry for AP McCoy because he rode him earlier in the season and taught us how Jezki should be ridden.
“This has been a very fortunate race for me and what can I say but that I am delighted.
“To be here with my family and to have the first two means everything, not least because this race has been the focus for me this season as I don’t have a Gold Cup runner and I’m unlikely to win the Grand National.
Hurricane Fly was prominent until just before the final hurdle when Ruby Walsh went for the whip and the 10-year-old found the younger horses too quick for him.
“One defeat is not the end of the road in my opinion,” his trainer Willie Mullins, who has trained him to a world record 19 Grade One wins, said.
“We’ll do what we normally do and go back to Leopardstown and regroup.”