Jezki swats old rival Fly
Jezki got the better of old rival Hurricane Fly to clinch the Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle at Punchestown.
The brilliant Huricane Fly had got the better of his opponent on each of their four previous meetings this year, but this represented a different test for both horses as the pair encountered three miles for the first time.
Jessica Harrington's Jezki (5-2), winner at the intermediate distance of two and a half miles in the Aintree Hurdle last time out, travelled noticeably well in the hands of Mark Walsh, while Ruby Walsh never appeared totally content aboard Hurricane Fly, who made one or two uncharacteristic jumping errors.
Class rose to the top before the home turn, however, with the big two quickly leaving their rivals trailing and it was set up for a grandstand finish.
Jezki had more in the tank, though, and try as he might, the Willie Mullins-trained Hurricane Fly was unable to bridge the gap, going down by a length and three-quarters in his quest to win a 23rd Grade One prize.
The winning rider said: "He travelled too well if I'm honest.
"He settled fine early but something lit him up. He's some horse to win despite that.
"His class got him through."
Winning owner JP McManus said: "It's nice to beat the Hurricane, but he's such a marvellous horse. When you think of all the Grade Ones he's won, he's been the best hurdler for a long time. It's nice to beat him today over three miles.
"The fact that he won today, at least we know he gets three miles. We thought he would. I didn't think stamina would be a problem, I thought Hurricane Fly would be his problem!
"Faugheen beat us quite convincingly at Cheltenham, so we took the easier option.
"I think the win at Aintree just gave this horse a lift and in fairness to Jessica, she had him in wonderful condition. He looked a picture."
Harrington said: "That was brilliant. I was hoping he'd get home as he was pretty free and tanking with Mark. He jumped brilliantly and lasted home. Three miles seems no problem.
"He's an amazing horse for me to have. He's basically very straightforward. He does like the spring with a bit of nice ground and the sun on his back. He's a better horse now than in the winter.
"Mark gave him an absolutely terrific ride and I'm really pleased for him. Punchestown is the local racecourse and I love having winners here.
"We re-routed him here as he's been beaten by Faugheen, Hurricane Fly and Arctic Fire so we decided to try something new. All the family stayed really well.
"At Cheltenham things didn't go right for him. It was run at a slow pace, Ruby dictated (on Faugheen) and he was probably a bit keen.
"AP (McCoy) said that if he'd rode him for second he would have been second but he was trying to win the race and it didn't work out.
"Up until the last two runs it would have been a disappointing season but he's won two Grade Ones now so we can't say it's too bad."
Mullins said of Hurricane Fly: "I was happy. He probably wasn't as fluent down the back as he can be and that's where the race was won and lost.
"He didn't let fly at them and Jezki did and he just lost a couple of lengths which he couldn't get back.
"It just shows that there is only a couple of lengths between them whatever the trip.
"It was a good race. They both turned in with a chance and it was Jezki's day."