Ruby Walsh rides Yorkhill to victory on Day 3 of Cheltenham
Yorkhill gave trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh a belated first winner of this year’s Cheltenham Festival when winning a dramatic race for the JLT Novices’ Chase.
Walsh had Graham Wylie's seven-year-old switched off at the back of the field as Balko Des Flos made the running.
Baily Cloud fell six out and badly hampered Flying Angel, and the complexion of the race changed even more when Balko Des Flos came down at the fourth-last with Yorkhill doing well to avoid him.
His exit saw Disko go on but Top Notch, Kilcrea Vale and Yorkhill were also bang there and it was the latter who showed his class.
Leading before the final fence, the 6-4 favourite had to be driven out to hold Top Notch by a length, with Disko three lengths away in third.
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 said: "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 went on: "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."
Wylie said: "Today he jumped magnificently, straight as a die, and he settled as well. He was nearly brought down, that was the only worry, he's as clever as Einstein that horse.
"Coming to the last if he jumped it I knew he'd win, although Top Notch ran a great race.
"I'm pleased the horse has done himself justice and I'm pleased for Ruby and Willie to give them their first winner."