Sensational Espoir D'Allen A Shock Champion Hurdle Winner As Buveur D'Air Falls And Apple's Jade Flops
Espoir D'Allen was a shock 16/1 winner of the Champion Hurdle, as the Gavin Cromwell-trained star scooted clear of the field to claim the opening day showpiece at the Cheltenham Festival in stunning fashion in a race that saw former champion Buveur D'Air fall in the early stages of the contest.
All eyes were on the three contenders at the head of the market with Apple's Jade winning the race for favouritism against Buveur D'Air and Laurina, but the race took a major turn down the back straight.
Held out off the pace, Buveur D'Air suffered a crashing fall and his quest for three Champion Hurdle crowns went flying into the Cheltenham turf. Up on the speed, Melon unsettled race favourite Apple's Jade as the pair battled for the lead, and a long way from home Apple's Jade was floundering in the rain-softened ground.
As Laurina went to challenge stablemate Melon, the run of Espoir D'Allen was catching the eye as Mark Walsh cruised into contention, and turning for home, Walsh let off the handbrake on his mount, and he kicked comfortably clear of the Mullins pair, who struggled to see out the race.
In splendid isolation, Espoir D'Allen was way clear as he jumped the final hurdle on his own, and he duly launched clear up the home straight to claim a first festival win for his trainer Cromwell by 15 lengths.
A gutsy Melon managed to stay on to maintain second spot, while 80/1 outsider Silver Streak produced a career best to land third place in a race that will go down in Cheltenham Festival history as one of the shock results in recent times.
Buveur D'Air rose from his tumble, so hopefully he will be back to fight another day, while Apple's Jade poor Cheltenham Festival form, but the race was all about Espoir D'Allen, who carried the famous green and gold silks of the McManus team into the winner's enclosure.