Ivanovich Gorbatov gave trainer Aidan O'Brien his sixth Festival winner, his first since Istabraq won the Stan James Champion Hurdle in 2000, when running out the smooth winner of the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham this afternoon.
Although it is O'Brien senior's name on the racecard, the training of this horse has been done by his son, Joseph - the recently retired Classic winning jockey - and it is anticipated that O'Brien junior will start his training career proper this summer.
The four-year-old was always travelling kindly under jockey Barry Geraghty and was still hard on the bridle as he loomed up alongside leader Apple's Jade at the final flight. The 9/2 favourite eventually wore down the runner up as they stormed up the hill to record a length and a quarter victory.
O'Brien junior was visibly delighted after the race. "I can't really put it into words to be honest - it's unbelievable," he said, "It feels slightly surreal. It's completely different to being in the saddle. When you're riding, you don't get a chance to take in the whole occasion but now, you don't have much to do on the day itself as the job is done. When you're riding, everything you do is on the day.
"Barry was as confident as anyone. When he got off him last time out, he said he hated the ground and couldn't jump. We just took that as it was and just trained him for here. We were in no doubt he would be better on better ground and he was. He could be a Champion Hurdle horse - he's entitled to go into that grade - but it will be a huge step up. We'll get through the summer first and see.
"My (training) course is on in May and hopefully I'll pass and I'll be able to go training from there. "I am hoping to get my licence in June. I thought it would be May, but it looks like June. I have to do the next course because I missed the last one when I was away at the Breeders' Cup. It won't just be jumpers I'll train - it'll be a 50/50 split between Flat horses and National Hunt horses, about 70 in all. I've got a nice bunch of 15 to 20 two-year-olds so I'm looking forward to that.
"Ivanovich Gorbatov was in Ballydoyle on the Flat and was obviously a decent horse. Then he came to us and has always jumped well. He has been working really well and all the lads at home have been happy, but he was working well before the last day. We were very hopeful the ground would make a big different and it has. He is 106 rated on the Flat. He won a big handicap at Leoapardstown over a mile and seven, so he stays well. He is by Montjeu and jumped well from day one, so we always thought he would be nice if he progressed.
"My weight was a struggle, especially the last year. I knew from day one that I would not be able to ride forever and I was very lucky to ride some of the horses I did, but there comes a time when you have to move on."
Ivanovich Gorbatov's owner, J P McManus, was quick to praise the O'Briens after the race. "It's great for Joseph and also nice to get Barry off the mark for the week," said the owner, "They've all done a great job. The horse needed to come back after Leopardstown but they never lost faith in him. They said he'd improve for the run and the better ground - full marks to them. Joseph's record now speaks for itself. He thought that he should have taken a bit more off him at Leopardstown but he was a bit lighter today and Joseph wasn't surprised that he won today.
"It's been a good week. It was good to see My Tent Or Yours back (finished second behind Annie Power) in the Champion Hurdle - it was a great training performance by Nicky. We've had a lot of good memories here and this is one to savour."
GERAGHTY GETS ONE ON THE BOARD
Ivanovich Gorbatov's JCB Triumph Hurdle victory was a 34th Festival success for jockey Barry Geraghty - and a first at this year's meeting.
"I've had a long wait. That's how it goes and couple of years ago I had to wait until Bobs Worth in the novices' hurdle on the last day. It is always brilliant to get one ," said Geraghty, who rode the J P McManus-owned son of Montjeu for Aidan O'Brien, although O'Brien's son Joseph has been handling the gelding's training.
Geraghty continued: "I wasn't far off the pacemaker - we went a good strong gallop, and I'd say it rode a good race. The runner-up [Apple's Jade] - when she kicked off the turn I thought 'I'll get you easy enough', but I had to go and get her. It rode a good race and will work out in time."
It was 9/2 favourite Ivanovich Gorbatov's third start and second win over hurdles - he was beaten into fourth in a Grade One at Leopardstown in February. He won twice on the Flat when ridden by Joseph O'Brien.
Geraghty said: "He was brilliant the first time - it was just the ground last time. Joseph has done a great job on him, he has him so well. That first day at Leopardstown [when he won], I couldn't believe it was his first time [over hurdles]."
1) Ivanovich Gorbatov (J P McManus) Aidan O'Brien IRE 4-11-00 Barry Geraghty 9/2 Fav 2) Apple's Jade (Gigginstown House Stud) Willie Mullins IRE 4-10-07 Bryan Cooper 12/1 3) Footpad (Simon Munir/Issac Souede) Willie Mullins IRE 4-11-00 Ruby Walsh 5/1
Distances: 1¼, 6
TWO-THREE-FOUR FOR MULLINS
The juvenile hurdling crown was decided in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, in which Irish-trained horses filled the first four places.
Ivanovich Gorbatov became a first Festival winner for trainer Aidan O'Brien, while horses from the stable of Willie Mullins finished second, third and fourth. The filly Apple's Jade made the winner work hard for his length-and-a-quarter victory, and she was six lengths ahead of Footpad. Let's Dance came home in fourth.
Mullins said of the Gigginstown House Stud-owned runner-up: "There's not much of Apple's Jade, but I think that with a summer at grass she will mature a lot. Footpad didn't seem to appreciate the hood and going at that speed, while Let's Dance stayed on and is going to be a nice novice for next year. Let's Dance has not won yet so we will probably keep her a maiden."
Both Apple's Jade and Let's Dance have an entry in a Grade One novices' hurdle for fillies at Fairyhouse in nine days' time.
Mullins said: "It might be a bit too soon for Apple's Jade, but we will leave her in until the last minute and take it from there."
The opening race on Cheltenham Gold Cup day is the Triumph Hurdle. This is a Grade 1 race restricted to four year old juvenile hurdlers and is run over a distance of two miles and 1 furlong.
Peace & Co headed a Nicky Henderson trained 1-2-3 in 2015. By contrast this has been a poor race for Willie Mullins. He has not had a winner here or in the Fred Winter since Scolardy won the Triumph Hurdle in 2002. In that time he's had just one placed runner from 15 attempts in the Triumph and all 11 of his Fred Winter Handicap runners have finished unplaced. 11 of these runners starting at 14/1 or shorter.
Tiger Roll won the 2014 renewal for owners Gigginstown House, trainer Gordon Elliot and jockey Davy Russell.
Triumph Hurdle Stats 2006-2015
Barry Geraghty has ridden 4 winners since 2003
Ruby Walsh and Paul Nicholls have teamed up to win the race twice since 2008
Nicky Henderson has trained 3 of the last 7 winners ( 123 in 2015) and runner up in 2014
The last 11 winners ran between 20 and 55 days beforehand
9 of the last 12 won their prep race
3 of the last 10 winners ran in and won the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton
2 of last 3winners ran in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown finishing 12
Last 10 winners rated 140+
Only one winner was rated lower than 80 on the flat since 1996
Fate of the Favourite 1 0 2 2 4 4 3 6 4 1
Winner's Market Position 1 2 2 3 3 3 0 2 5 1
Our Conor was the first Irish trained winner for a decade in 2013
Eight Aga Khan-bred horses have lined up in the Triumph Hurdle since 2008 and their record reads 137R2310
2016 Triumph Hurdle Contenders
We are tracking the main Triumph Hurdle contenders on our forum. The Adonis Hurdle has still be be run so this is a still developing market.
Triumph Hurdle Winners 2006-2015
Triumph Hurdle Trivia
The race has been run as part of the festival since 1968.
In 1967 the three time champion hurdle winner Persian War won the last of the 3 renewals run as part of the April meeting.
The last Triumph Hurdle winner to follow on in the Champion Hurdle was Katchit in 2007/2008.
Barry Geraghty is the the most successful Triumph Hurdle jockeys with four wins.
Nicky Henderson has the best record of all trainers with six wins in the race between 1985 and 2015.
Three other horses have completed the Triumph - Champion Hurdle double (Clair Soleil, Persian War & Kribensis)
The race was run at the Hurst Park race course in Surrey between 1939 and 1962.
When Lester Piggott rode Prince Charlemagne to win the race in 1954 it was not part of the Cheltenham Festival.