Cinders And Ashes reigns Supreme
Donald McCain's Cinders And Ashes won the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the opening race of the 2012 Cheltenham Festival this afternoon.
Sent off at 10-1 following a victory at Aintree and two wins at Haydock, the five-year-old travelled strongly throughout in the hands of Jason Maguire, but a poor leap down the back straight threatened to ruin his chance.
However, Maguire stayed cool and after cruising into the home straight, another error at the last was not enough to stop him winning by a length and a quarter from Darlan.
With the pace not as frenetic as might have been expected, plenty of runners were pulling for their heads in the early stages, including the winner.
The result was plenty remained in with chances heading down the hill and bunching caused traffic problems for those behind.
Leading fancy Darlan was one of the first to commit for home, while one of the Irish raiders, Trifolium, was another right there rounding the home turn.
But Cinders And Ashes quickened to the lead soon after and despite flattening the final flight, he was good value for his victory.
Trifolium was a neck behind Darlan in third, with Montbazon and Prospect Wells not too far behind those.
Joint-owner Phil Cunningham, whose Cockney Rebel won the English and Irish 2000 Guineas back in 2007, said: "I think I'll stick to Flat racing, my heart is still racing!
"It was a cracking ride and training performance.
"What an amazing day."
Maguire said: "Fantastic, but I probably got to the front a bit too soon. He pricked his ears and he got in a bit tight at the last.
"He's a smart horse and has got a Flat pedigree. He's just a year stronger this year and Donald's done a brilliant job with him.
"His Flat pedigree has helped him as it got a bit tight a couple of times on the inside."
McCain said: "That was magic. I told the owners to help themselves to the 33s at Christmas.
"He's a fair horse. I wasn't sure if he'd be as good on that ground but he's a bit like Peddlers Cross - he's a tool."