Ballyandy got up in the final stride to deny Pentland Hills in a dramatic finish to The New One Unibet Hurdle at Haydock.
Pentland Hills was in front jumping the last, but Sam Twiston-Davies conjured a great run out of Ballyandy (5-2) – similar to that on Stolen Silver earlier on the card – to pip last season’s Triumph Hurdle hero.
Fighting Fifth victor Cornerstone Lad made a gallant bid to lead all the way, but Pentland Hills, the 2-1 favourite, was just waiting in the wings to pounce.
Nicky Henderson’s runner went on under Nico de Boinville, but he had no answer to the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyandy, who snatched the spoils by a nose right on the line in the race registered as the Champion Hurdle Trial Hurdle.
Sam Twiston-Davies said: “It’s a hell of a training performance as he’s had three relatively quick runs. He’s as honest as they come.
“He’s in the Champion and if it came up soft he might nick some good prize-money. He’s very honest, has a lovely attitude and loves that ground.”
His delighted father said: “He’s my son, so of course I’m going to say it, but I think he’s the best jockey in the country. I don’t think anyone else would have won on those two today.
“I thought he’d got there, but then I started to doubt myself. I was screaming him home.
“In these small fields they go very steady and that doesn’t suit him. He’s proving what an idiot I am because at the start of the season I ran him over three miles at Wetherby.
“Until we have a five-day Festival with a two-and-a-half-mile race he’ll run in the Champion.
“It’s great to win The New One’s race, this lad isn’t as good but he’s a good one to follow him.”
Ryan Bliss, representing Pentland Hills’ owners, the Owners Group syndicate, said: “He was keen again and Nico thinks in a strongly-run race he’ll get him to settle better. Nico’s disappointed he didn’t win, but he’s run well.”
Micky Hammond said of the close third, Cornerstone Lad: “I think he’s run a superb race under his penalty, we were giving the winner 6lb and the second 3lb.
“Yes we like this ground, but I’d say he’s continuing to go the right way. We’ll have to consider the Champion Hurdle as there aren’t many other options – other than a fence next season which he should jump with aplomb.
“I couldn’t be more pleased really.”