Yorkhill and Ruby Walsh team up for JLT Novices' Chase success
Last Updated: 16/03/17 2:16pm
Yorkhill ended Willie Mullins' wait for a 2017 Cheltenham Festival winner with a game success in the JLT Novices' Chase.
The 6/4 favourite led at the second last and stayed on strongly to beat a rallying Top Notch (7/2) by a length, also providing jockey Ruby Walsh with his first winner of the week.
But it could all have been very different had the runner-up not forfeited a lot of ground, as well as momentum, when he made a jolting mistake two from home.
Daryl Jacob galvanised his mount but could not quite make up the lost lengths after the last and had to settle for second.
Disko (4/1) filled third place under Bryan Cooper.
Walsh said: "There's been a lot of toing and froing about whether to go chasing or stay hurdling, but he's got Gold Cup horse written all over him and always had.
"People crab him because of his jumping, but he has a huge kink in him - people never realised the job Paul Nicholls did with Denman, because he was the same.
"Both are chestnuts by Presenting, the best ones all have a kink, he has a massive engine. He's brilliant.
"He slipped taking off at the first down the back and when he landed I thought 'your luck could be in today'. Everything can't go your way all the time and you have to prepare for that."
Mullins added: "To get on the board is huge. To get on the board in a Grade One is better. It's good for Ruby and the whole team. We've had a hard few days, but that's the way it is and we take what we can get.
"He was good, I'm wondering if he idled in front, as I thought he might go away. For a moment it looked like he might be coming back to them, but he held on.
"Ruby was great, he's not the easiest of rides and after the last few days I was wondering if he was too far behind, but you can't give him his head because if he passes one horse he wants to be in front, so he had to sit and suffer and wait for the gap.
"I've no doubt he's a Champion Hurdle horse and Ruby has no doubt he's a Gold Cup horse! Ruby thought he was a lot more settled this year than in the Neptune, so we'll maybe go down the Gold Cup route.
"It took Ruby a long time to pull him up which is a good sign in any horse. We're on the board now, so it's a big relief."
Nicky Henderson, trainer of Top Notch, said: "He loves it and he would be great for Aintree over two and a half miles if he is OK.
"If you had half a yard full of Top Notch's you could get rid of the rest of them. Life is a pleasure with him. You can set your clock by him. What he lacks in size and scope, the heart is so big he does everything you ask of him.
"It might have been costly (mistake at second-last). He came to attack the race then all of a sudden he lost a bit of momentum, but Ruby gave him (Yorkhill) a brilliant ride. We all knew he was the horse we had to beat."