Cornerstone Lad caused a huge upset when foiling dual winner Buveur D’Air in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
Micky Hammond’s five-year-old was sent off at 16-1 stepping up from handicap company – but showed tremendous determination to foil the former Champion Hurdle hero.
Henry Brooke was positive from the of aboard Cornerstone Lad, as nothing appeared to want to go one, and his mount settled nicely in front ahead of Nelson River and Buveur D’Air.
The lead had stretched to eight lengths at the top of the straight with three flights to jump.
Barry Geraghty got serious on Buveur D’Air, but a mistake two out lost the 2-13 favourite a bit of ground and he was two lengths down at the last hurdle.
Buveur D’Air joined Cornerstone Lad on the run-in and looked like he might land the spoils and become only the third horse to win the Fighting Fifth three times, but the leader was a short head to the good at the line.
Silver Streak was three and a quarter lengths away third of the five runners.
Geraghty revealed afterwards that Buveur D’Air had suffered an injury in defeat.
He said: “He picked up a little cut on his coronary band – just between the hoof and the hair.
“He’s sore, so we’ll just have to see how he is. Hopefully he’s OK. The vet is having a look at him
“I only discovered it (the cut) after I pulled up. I was happy through the race and I thought I’d win jumping the last, but I just struggled in the last 100 yards.
“The winner was very good. He went a good gallop and did it the hard way.”
A downcast Nicky Henderson was at Newbury, where he said: “I’ve none at all (reaction). I’ve only watched it like you have.
“The other horse got away and he had a fair bit of ground to make up, he nearly got there, but he didn’t.
“I’ve not spoken to anybody, I’m afraid. You saw what I saw and he got beat.
“Let’s talk to everybody and see what happens.”
Giving an update on Saturday evening, Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said: “He’s on his way home. The vets are going to look at him tomorrow.
“He got a lump of birch on his coronary band between the hair and hoof. It was very sore and he was lame with it.
“The birch was removed and after settling down the vets were happy for him to travel home and we’ll know more on Monday.”
Hammond said: “I’m obviously delighted – we didn’t come here expecting to win. I hope Buveur D’Air is all right, as I saw Barry jump off him after the line.
“Buveur D’Air has always been a favourite of mine and so has Cornerstone Lad. It’s a great team effort by everyone at home.
“To be truthful, Kate, who looks after him said a good few weeks ago, ‘is it worth giving him an entry for the Fighting Fifth?’. It was the Monday or Tuesday before he was due to go to Wetherby.
“I thought, ‘he’s probably not good enough to go to the Fighting Fifth, but we’ll enter and if we win or run really well at Wetherby and the ground was soft/heavy at Newcastle, we’ll consider it’.
“The ground has been heavy all week, which we know he copes with. He’s got a rotivating action and is a bit ungainly at times, but he has a big heart and I’m absolutely delighted for everyone involved.
“I don’t know where we’ll go now. We’ll enjoy the day and see how he comes out of the race.
“We could look at something like the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock, where it’s nearly always soft.”
Brooke – who picked up a four-day ban for his use of the whip from approaching the second-last – said: “We’d have been delighted with third place beforehand.
“I knew Buveur D’Air would be the one coming after the last. It was heads up, heads down – and thankfully we came out on top.
“It’s a massive day for me.”