JEZKI produced a gutsy display to finally give trainer Jessica Harrington a Stan James Champion Hurdle victory.
She has been a bridesmaid in the show-piece contest at the Cheltenham Festival but her six-year-old, ridden by Barry Geraghty, signalled a new dawn in the division when exhibiting a will of iron to win.
A 9-1 outsider, Jezki held a healthy lead jumping the final flight but needed all his resolve to hold off My Tent Or Yours by a neck as they duelled up the hill.
It was a race which could have seen Hurricane Fly join an elite band of horses to have won the Champion Hurdle on three occasions but Ruby Walsh’s mount could only finish fourth.
The contest was also tinged with sadness as Our Conor, who thrilled the crowds 12 months ago when winning the Triumph Hurdle by 15 lengths, suffered a fatal fall.
Harrington said of Jezki: “I think I’ve been placed three times and to get the number one spot is fantastic.
“There was a lot of shouting up the hill and I am surprised I can speak at all. I had great faith in the horse.”
Geraghty has never lost in five races on Jezki and said: “He’s a great little horse.
“He had good form and we didn’t have an awful lot to find with the best of them.
“I don’t think that the price reflected his chance.
“He found plenty when I needed him to. The runner-up was getting to me - I needed the line.”
Vautour (7-2 jt-fav) got Irish trainer Willie Mullins’ Festival off a flier when making every yard to win the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Ecstasy quickly turned to agony for Mullins and Walsh when Champagne Fever (11-4 jt-fav) was mugged in the final strides by 33-1 outsider Western Warhorse in the Racing Post Arkle.