Sire Du Berlais delighted favourite-backers with a last-gasp victory under an inspired Barry Geraghty in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham.
Trained by Gordon Elliott and owned by JP McManus, the seven-year-old had caught the eye when finishing sixth in a Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown in December and was a heavily-backed 4-1 market leader for what was his first start since.
It was not entirely straightforward for Sir Du Berlais, with Geraghty having to get to work a long way from home.
But to his credit, the seven-year-old responded to his rider’s urgings and charged up the hill to get up and beat 40-1 shot Debra Hamer’s Tobefair by a neck.
The strong-travelling Not Many Left and Cuneo were not far behind in third and fourth respectively.
It was a quick double for Geraghty in the McManus colours, after Defi Du Seuil in the JLT Novices’ Chase.
He said after what was his 38th Cheltenham Festival winner: “I thought I was in trouble three out, I got tight for room but he rallied and rallied, and it was a good performance.
“There was plenty of traffic, but he responded and was a willing partner.”
Elliott said: “I was happy the whole way through the race. He was short of room at the top of the hill, but Barry gave him a great ride and he never panicked. I knew when it opened up he would stay going which was brilliant.
“I thought until 50 yards before the line we were still under a bit of pressure. It looked the race to go for with him, so it is great. I’ll speak to the owner and see what we do next, but to win the Pertemps is great.
“We had a very slow start, but it goes to show if you keep your head down and keep trying you will get there.”
Hamer said of the runner-up: “This is the horse that we see at home, but it wasn’t him when we brought him for this race two years ago. He’s amazing and I’m thrilled to bits with him.
“I’m so excited, all the owners are here, about 10 of them, so we’re going to have a glass of champagne now.”
A 50-1 winner trained by Willie Mullins is a rarity – and even rarer when followed home by a 66-1 stablemate, as happened in the National Hunt Breeders Supported By Tattersalls Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle when Eglantine Du Seuil beat Concertista.
Mullins ran seven in the race, with Ruby Walsh on My Sister Sarah, who never got involved.
Favourite Epatante made several mistakes and flattened out as Concertista – remarkably making her hurdling debut – made her bid for home.
Noel Fehily got a great tune out of Eglantine Du Seuil, though, and despite having 10 in front of him approaching the final flight, she got there in the dying strides.
Fehily immediately announced his intention to retire.
He told Racing TV: “I wasn’t well for a while earlier in the year and I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of weeks. It’s time to let the young lads get on with it.
“I’ve spoken to my agent Chris Broad, who has been great about it, and I think I’ll carry on riding for a couple of weeks.
“This will definitely be my last Festival and I was hoping for a winner so I’d be able to announce it.”
Mullins said: “I thought this mare (Eglantine Du Seuil) was probably the slowest one I had in the race, but she’s a good jumper and I told Noel she’d be staying on best of anything at the finish.
“It was a fantastic performance from Noel. It’s great to see him having a winner here (before retiring).
“The other mare (Concertista), having her first run over hurdles, will be back next year, hopefully.
“I couldn’t run her this year in the ground.”
The closing Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase also went the way of Ireland, with Any Second Now just wearing down Kilfilum Cross.
Derek O’Connor, who rode Kilfilum Cross to victory at Ludlow last time out, jumped ship on to Ted Walsh’s Any Second Now (6-1) and he powered up the hill to win three and three-quarter lengths.
Walsh said: “He jumped and travelled and did it nicely. Derek gave him a great ride and lads like him and Jamie (Codd) and Patrick (Mullins) are worth 5lb or 7lb.
“The horse is what he is – a 144 horse – but he might end up in a National or something.
“I got a great kick out of all Ruby’s winners here and Katie’s as well. I appreciate how hard it is to train a winner here and I never take it for granted. It’s terrific.”