Labaik wins Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at 25/1
Last Updated: 01/02/18 2:55pm
Outsider Labaik got bookmakers off to a flyer at the Cheltenham Festival with victory in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Gordon Elliott's 25/1 shot, ridden by Jack Kennedy, cruised into the lead coming to the last hurdle and, after briefly coming off a straight line, stuck on well to deny well-backed 3/1 joint favourite Melon.
The six-year-old has twice refused to race, perhaps a reason for his inflated price, but he travelled strongly towards the rear of the field as Cilaos Emery set a medium pace.
Kennedy had to avoid traffic on a couple of occasions, with joint-favourite Ballyandy badly hampered in midfield, but by the time the field turned for home, Labaik was cruising behind the leaders.
He was sent to the front just before the final flight and showed plenty of toe to see off the much-hyped Melon by 2 1/4 lengths, with 8/1 shot River Wylde eight lengths back in third.
"Words can't describe what it's like," 17-year-old Kennedy told ITV Racing. "I was probably a little bit far back but they went a good gallop. It couldn't have gone any better.
"I always enjoyed watching it (as a boy) and it's great to get a taste of it. Everyone wants more, but I'll be going home a very happy lad at the end of the week now, however things go. It's brilliant."
Elliott added: "He could have gone to Naas on Sunday, I said to the lads it wouldn't be as embarrassing if he refuses there.
"It just all worked out today. I told Jack if he jumped off to just hunt around and ride him for a place. I've always said he's our best work horse in the yard. I don't care if he never jumps off again!"
Trainer Willie Mullins said of runner-up Melon: "He ran well and I don't there are any excuses."
Nicky Henderson was pleased with River Wylde's performance to take third.
He said: "Last year we were third with Buveur D'Air and he is coming here for the Champion Hurdle, and there was a horse called Sprinter Sacre who finished third in it a few years ago. So third is a good place to finish in the Supreme.
"He ran a terrific race. There is no rush to decide what we do with him, he doesn't have to go chasing. There is no rush to decide, we have got six months to do that."
Ballyandy stayed on for fourth and was the unlucky horse in the race, with his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies saying: "We had no luck in running .
"At the last with a circuit to go he got stopped dead. The winner cruised away and you can't take that away from him. We were beaten by a better horse on the day. He stayed on well, though.
"He will go to Aintree and it might be that we have to go a bit further. It is very disappointing, but he has run well. He will definitely go over fences next season. He jumps hurdles too well as he takes a lot of time in the air."