Superb Story gave trainer Dan Skelton his first Festival success when running out the game winner of the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle at Cheltenham this afternoon.
The 8/1 shot had a long run for home as the field were marshalled around the final flight, which was dolled off following a fall on the first circuit, but he stuck to his task well, staying on strongly up the hill to deny runner-up Fethard Player by two and a half lengths.
It was a real family affair as Skelton's brother, Harry, rode the horse to victory and the trainer's smile was beaming shortly after the race.
"It's magic - it's just amazing," said Skelton.
"My horses have been running well all week and we just hoped and prayed that this can happen. We've had a great year but that's everything and, with Harry being on him, it makes it even more special.
"Without sounding obvious, it was going to happen one day but you hope it will be sooner rather than later.
"To be involved with any winner at any level is great - we're all in this sport to be winners - but this is extra special. Ok, it's not a Grade One but it's magic.
"I've not been doing this that long and I had a lot of experience and success working for Paul (Nicholls, to whom Skelton was assistant trainer in the Kauto Star and Denman era) but to do it for myself is amazing.
"We've got a great team, some lovely owners, some decent horses and Harry is riding brilliantly. I hoped Harry was going to be on my first Festival winner obviously!
"This is the greatest day. I'm in my third year of training and this is our global championships. I know it's only a handicap winner and he will be eclipsed by the Gold Cup winner and probably Victoria Pendleton but I couldn't give a monkeys!"
Skelton's father, Nick, an Olympic gold medallist who won a showjumping team gold at the 2012 London Olympics, was also quick to praise his sons after the race.
"I'm speechless," said Skelton senior.
"Both boys work really hard. Harry's been saying for two weeks that this horse was going to win - he had complete confidence in him. Hopefully these two are going to keep me in my old age!
"Harry has given him a lovely ride. I don't know if he knew they were going to bypass the final fence but he obviously knew what he had left in the tank - I thought he might have gone too early.
"To get a winner is brilliant. This is like the Olympic games for National Hunt racing and to get a winner so early on in their career is terrific."
MAGIC MOMENT FOR HARRY SKELTON
"Magic!" exclaimed jockey Harry Skelton after achieving a first Festival win for himself and his brother, Dan, courtesy of Superb Story in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle.
Superb Story, an 8/1 shot, was driven clear by Harry to beat 25 rivals and win by two and a half lengths and three and a half lengths from Fethard Player and Sternrubin.
"This is for the staff who graft and graft," said Harry. "I'm so thankful to Dan [who trains Superb Story] and to Dad [showjumper Nick] who has given us everything. I've believed in this horse, and when I saw the last hurdle had been taken out I said to myself, 'right, get stuck in'.
"In this game a lot of people will knock you down, but you have to be thick skinned and I'm just glad to get the opportunities. I said to Hannah [Nicol, the horse's groom] a week ago that this was the one. I schooled him yesterday and I couldn't see him being beaten. Dan has kept him fresh since he ran in the Greatwood Hurdle in November and trained him to the minute."
He added: "I know we have been given so much by Dad and people think we are lucky, but if ever I have children I will do the same for them. We have still had to take the opportunity and make it work."
1) Superb Story (A Holt, J Robinson, A Taylor & S Miller) Dan Skelton 5-10-12 Harry Skelton 8/1 2) Fethard Player (William Treacy) William Treacy IRE 9-11-02 David Mullins (3) 33/1 3) Sternrubin (Terry Warner) Philip Hobbs 5-11-02 Tom O'Brien 33/1 4) Wait For Me (Andrew Cohen) Philip Hobbs 6-10-13 Richard Johnson 7/1 Jt Fav
7/1 Jt Fav Great Field
Distances: 2½, 3½, hd
1st win at The Festival for trainer Dan Skelton 1st win at The Festival for jockey Harry Skelton
THE BETBRIGHT CUP - GREAT BRITAIN - 11 IRELAND - 12
PLAYER SHOWS HIS GAME AFTER LONG LAY-OFF
The Billy Treacy-trained and owned Fethard Player finished second at 33/1 to Superb Story by two and half lengths. It was the nine-year-old's first run since October 31.
Treacy wasn't present, but his daughter Mia said: "We're delighted. He's been off since October - he doesn't like winter ground, and ideally we'd have got a run into him before now, but he's so honest, he'd kill himself on winter ground.
"He's been a brilliant investment. My brother Kieran and I bought him for 3,000 euros at the Goffs Sale in 2011. He's very small, only about 15.3hh, but he has a big heart.
"You'd wonder whether he's now gone from handicap company into graded races, but he might be a little bit below that in ability. But perhaps the better handicaps where he wouldn't have top weight."
Fethard Player was ridden by David Mullins, who said: "He's a great little horse to ride. He was in the box seat everywhere, he winged the hurdles. He's due a big one some day."
A further three and a half lengths back in third was the Philip Hobbs-trained Sternrubin, ridden by Tom O'Brien.
O'Brien said: "He's a tough horse, game, stays all day and jumps well. I had a good run around."
The Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle is a Grade 3 run over 2 miles 1 furlong. The most famous horse on the roll of honour is probably is Rooster Booster who won this in 2002 and followed up in the 2003 Champion Hurdle.
Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle Stats 2005-2016
Ruby Walsh has ridden 4 winners since 2004
Paul Nicholls trained 4 winners since 2004
Willie Mullins has trained 3 of the last 5 winners ( and 4 of the first 6 in 2015 and the 2nd and 4th in 2014)
The last 10 winners were OR between 131 and 139
8 of the last 11 winners carried more than 10-11
Fate of the Favourite 0 1/0 0 2 6 0 0 0 9/F P 0
Winner's Market Position 8 1 4 0 7 0 4 0 2 3 0
Irish trained horses have won the last 7 renewals not won by Nicholls
5 year olds have a good record winning 6 of the last 12
The last 13 has a prep run less than 68 days beforehand
No Imperial Cup winner has doubled up since Blowing Wind in 1998