Tony McCoy steers Jezki towards Festival glory
Tony McCoy and Jezki followed up Down Royal success and highlighted Cheltenham Festival Champion Hurdle potential with victory in the prestigious Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
McCoy won the big WKD Hurdle at Down Royal earlier this month, career victory number 3,992 for the prolific Ulsterman who went on to smash through the 4,000 barrier six days later.
Jessica Harrington's stable star is one of a host of smart youngsters looking to topple dual Champion Hurdle hero and record 17-times Grade One winner, Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly, with My Tent Or Yours – like Jezki owned by JP McManus – shooting to prominence with a dominant display in Saturday's Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, also under McCoy's guidance.
Jezki stepped up to two and-a-half miles for the first time in the €50,000 showpiece and was the hot 4-6 favourite.
The five-year-old travelled through the contest like much the best horse in the race, but the front-running Diakali did not fade tamely and last year's winner Zaidpour was also staying on doggedly on the run to the final flight.
A small mistake from Jezki briefly gave his rivals hope, but once shaken up the market leader asserted his authority, scoring by a length and three-quarters from Zaidpour.
McCoy was unsurprisingly none too keen on comparing Jezki with My Tent Or Yours, but once again confirmed his opinion that both had some way to go before they could think about getting the better of Hurricane Fly.
"It was a good enough performance. He's done it pretty well," said the 39-year-old, closing in on an incredible 19th successive champion jockey title.
"He's a bit like the horse that won yesterday (My Tent Or Yours). They are good novices from last year, but they have to improve to beat Hurricane Fly."
Harrington said: "The horse going off miles in front is not good for the nerves, but he made the ground up easy.
"The owner has got My Tent Or Yours as well, so it will all depend what they want to do."
Paddy Power left Jezki unchanged at 8-1 for the Champion Hurdle behind The New One, My Tent Or Yours, Our Conor and Hurricane Fly.
Meanwhile, an inquiry into the weighing-room dust-up at Newbury on Friday that resulted in Timmy Murphy dislocating his shoulder – fellow jockey Dominic Elsworth was apparently involved – will be held at Wincanton on Thursday.