Jezki profited from Arctic Fire’s fall at the last to take the Aintree Hurdle and give AP McCoy a winner in his last Grand National meeting.
McCoy sat well off a fierce pace set by Volnay De Thaix with Ruby Walsh on Arctic Fire also a long way back. Rock On Ruby went with Nicky Henderson’s leader but, apart from the disappointing Blue Heron, the field closed up on the turn for home.
The two Irish rivals battled it out with Rock On Ruby just behind coming to the last, but the Champion Hurdle runner-up fell and hampered Harry Fry’s veteran leaving Jezki clear in front.
Walsh was stood down for the day suffering from a dead leg but should be back in the saddle on Friday.
Trainer Jessica Harrington was delighted with her charge who had not been in the winners’ enclosure since his victories at Cheltenham and Punchestown last season.
Harrington said, “They’ve been hard races and when you are defending champion you have to have them ready for the first race of the year, which was the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November. He’s been on the go since then and stepping up to two and a half miles here, only three weeks after Cheltenham – and we thought we had him spot on for Cheltenham – he’s really run his heart out. He was great today.
“His half-brother (Jetson) goes in the three-miler here on Saturday, and he gets three miles easily. This year’s Champion Hurdle was five seconds slower than last year and I think that was probably his undoing. He likes a very fast-run race.”
Race sponsors StanJames cut him from 25/1 to 20/1 for next year’s Champion Hurdle but he is as short as 14/1 in places.
Harry Fry says Rock On Ruby could step up in trip at Punchestown next after finishing second in the Aintree Hurdle, just as he did 12 months ago.
Fry said, “He’s run his rock-solid race and he did well to stay up and Noel (Fehily) to stay on board after Arctic Fire’s fall. We probably looked like we were being held at the time but he always runs his race. He’s entered at Punchestown over three miles but we’ll see how he comes out of this before making any further plans.
“Obviously, he was sick over Cheltenham and we’ve had to get him right for this. It’s a credit to him that he’s still able to finish second in a Grade 1 at 10 years old. He’s been brilliant for us and he continues to be so.”
Rory Jiwani 09/04/15