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Page last updated at 15:36 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Punjabi storms to Hurdle victory

Punjabi, ridden by Barry Geraghty
Punjabi finished third in last year's Champion Hurdle

Punjabi held off a late challenge from stablemate and hot favourite Binocular to claim a stunning victory in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The Nicky Henderson-trained 22-1 shot stayed on brilliantly, with Binocular eventually finishing third in a photo-finish with Celestial Halo.

Barry Geraghty timed his run perfectly on board Punjabi as Binocular was found wanting over the last and up the hill.

"Punjabi has always been a very talented horse," said Henderson.

Irish-trained winners dominated the rest of Tuesday's racing, claiming four of the other five races.

But the lasting impression was made by Punjabi.

"Both of mine have run tremendous races," said Henderson. "It's very special to see them both there with Celestial Halo in between them.

"You think you have two chances and you've still got one to beat - a great race."

The race featured four previous Champion Hurdle victors and Osana set a fierce gallop up front under Andrew McNamara and was soon joined by Hardy Eustace and Celestial Halo.

Ruby Walsh was happy to take up the running from the half-way mark on board the eventual runner-up, but as Punjabi and Binocular loomed up he appeared to be a sitting duck.

However, he found something in reserve and when Punjabi, third in last year's race, looked less than fluent at the last it appeared he would hold on for victory.

Geraghty though would not be beaten and when he asked for everything the six-year-old responded to storm through and clinch the win.

"I thought I had Ruby well covered turning in. He ran on really well, he was all out, it was a great performance," said Geraghty.


"I tipped a Nicky Henderson one-two. There was one in between but it's brilliant.

"It's my first winner for Nicky at Cheltenham as well."

It was Henderson's fourth success in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, but most had expected Binocular to triumph with Punjabi rated as a rank outsider.

The five-year-old Binocular was an impressive winner of the International Hurdle at Ascot in December and had been rested by Henderson since, emerging last week to work at Kempton under jockey Tony McCoy.

Forpadydeplasterer was a popular winner of the Arkle

Geraghty had a dream day, also winning the second most valuable race of the day, when claiming the Arkle on Forpadydeplasterer.

There was drama in that race when the favourite Tatenen fell at the first. Going up the hill, Forpadydeplasterer was neck-and-neck with the fast-finishing Kalahari King, but just held on to cross in first.

The winner was a first at the Festival for Irish trainer Tom Cooper.

Earlier, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle got the Festival off to a flying start as Go Native came from nowhere to clinch victory.

At least four horses were in with a chance as they jumped the last but the Noel Meade-trained six-year-old held on under the challenge of Medermit who finished second, with the 40-1 chance Somersby third.

It was a day of close finishes, epitomised by the 1420 as Tony McCoy on Wichita Lineman recovered from two bad mistakes to snatch victory away from Maljimar by no more than a nose.

Nina Carberry guided Garde Champetre to victory in the 1600 Glenfarclas Handicap Chase, while the final race on day one of the Festival was won by the favourite Quevega.

Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle
1. Punjabi (Barry Geraghty) 22-1
2. Celestial Halo (Ruby Walsh) 17-2
3. Binocular (Tony McCoy) 6-4 fav
23 ran, Dist: nk, hd

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see also
Cheltenham day one photos
10 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Cheltenham day one as it happened
10 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Scudamore's Cheltenham course guide
09 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Veteran gets Champion Hurdle nod
02 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Denman & Kauto top Gold Cup field
11 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Binocular surges to Ascot victory
20 Dec 08 |  Horse Racing
Katchit takes thrilling victory
11 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
BBC racing coverage
09 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing
Quiz the racing team
17 Jun 08 |  Horse Racing

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