Prince Kayf came out in top in a thrilling three-way finish to claim a surprise victory in the Weatherbys Racing Bank “The French Furze” Novices’ Hurdle at Newcastle.
Bought for £50,000 after winning his only start in the Irish point-to-point sphere in the spring of last year, the five-year-old filled the runner-up spot on his debut under rules for Keith Dalgleish at Sedgefield in August.
Taking on a quartet of previous winners over hurdles, the son of Kayf Tara looked to have his work cut out at Gosforth Park – and was priced up accordingly at 40-1.
However, despite flattening the final flight, Prince Kayf finished strongly under Craig Nichol to prevail by a length from 5-4 favourite Imperial Alcazar, with Espoir De Romay just a short head away in third.
The stewards held an inquiry after the first three came close together late on, but the placings remained unaltered.
Nichol said: “I know Keith thinks a lot of the horse. It’s the first time I’ve sat on him, but Keith said he’s a better horse than the prices suggest and he’s proved it.
“He’s a big horse and there should be plenty of improvement in him.
“He missed the last, but he picked up well and was always going to win.”
There was a sting in the tail for Nichol, who received a four-day suspension for careless riding.
Tavus finished with a flourish to make a successful first start for Jedd O’Keeffe in the Weatherbys TBA Introductory Juvenile Hurdle.
A 105,000 guineas purchase having won three times on the Flat for Roger Charlton, the son of Pour Moi was a 9-2 chance for his jumping debut in the hands of Joe Colliver.
He was nearer last than first for much of the way, but powered home from the final flight to get up and beat the front-running 13-8 favourite Navajo Pass by a neck.
O’Keeffe said: “I’m very pleased. We were a bit concerned about the very deep ground, even though he handled soft ground on the Flat and clearly stays well.
“His jumping was a bit novicey, but that was inevitable. He’s schooled well at home, but we haven’t had him that long. It was great to see him come home well and I thought Joe gave him a lovely ride.
“I haven’t made any plans. I’d imagine we’ll run in a novice with a penalty and go from there.”
Lord Du Mesnil rallied gamely to emerge triumphant after the Avison Young Chase.
Runner-up on his last couple of starts, Richard Hobson’s charge set out to make all the running in a bid to go one better.
The 7-1 shot looked booked for minor honours again when passed by Sam’s Adventure on the run to the final fence, but rallied on the run-in to get back up and score by a neck under 3lb claimer Paul O’Brien.
“We got a soft lead in front and if he’d made the mistake he made two out last season then I’d say he would definitely have been beaten,” said the rider.
“He just seems tougher now than he used to be and he really tried for me after the last.”
Charlie Snow Angel notched a second successive victory over the course and distance in the Sky Sports Racing On Sky 415 Handicap Chase.
Sandy Forster’s 7-2 shot lost valuable momentum with a mistake at the final obstacle, but swiftly regathered his composure to hold on by a length from Stoney Rover.
“To be fair he’s always been very consistent at his level,” said winning jockey Jamie Hamilton.
“I ended up in front way too soon and he’s gone and fluffed the last, but we’ve got away with it and that’s the main thing.”
There was some respite for favourite-backers after Thor De Cerisy justified odds of 11-8 with a dominant display in the Ryder Architecture British EBF “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle.
Michael Scudamore’s charge had the race sewn up jumping the final flight and came home with eight lengths in hand.