Solwhit (far side) edges past Celestial Halo in the World HurdlePICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Solwhit stays on for World Hurdle glory
Report: Cheltenham Festival, Thursday
Ladbrokes World Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m, New Course, 4yo+
SOLWHIT, given a typically patient ride by Paul Carberry, got the better of Celestial Halo to land the Ladbrokes World Hurdle for trainer Charles Byrnes. He was returned at 17-2.
So often in the shadow of Hurricane Fly over 2m in recent years, Solwhit took staying honours on his first run beyond 2m4f with a two-and-a-half-length win over 40-1 shot Celestial Halo. Smad Place (9-1) was three lengths back in third.
Well-backed 5-2 favourite Oscar Whisky never got into the race and Richard Johnson was pushing from a long way out on 4-1 second favourite Reve De Sivola, who finished a flat fourth.
Byrnes, who has nursed Solwhit back to top form after a near two-year layoff, said: "It's fantastic. A lot of work has gone into him, which makes it special. We knew he was coming back to himself and he's just come right in the last couple of weeks.
"He's a class horse. He ran Hurricane Fly to a short head not so long ago and he hasn't lost it."
Carberry paid tribute to Byrnes's skill in guiding Solwhit through two comeback runs this seasons before stepping up in trip.
"His jumping was very good and it was a great training performance. He travelled great the whole way but just got stopped a bit coming down the hill. Coming to the last he flicked his ears and I knew he had plenty left."
The race started farcically, with nobody keen to take the lead until Bryan Cooper eventually sent Bog Warrior to the front ahead of Reve De Sivola. As a result, the final time was six seconds slower than the Pertemps Final over the same trip.
The front six for most of the way were Bog Warrior, Reve De Sivola, Cross Kennon, Oscara Dara, Smad Place and Celestial Halo, with several of the leading fancies held up.
Celestial Halo moved past Reve De Sivola to challenge Bog Warrior coming down the hill to the second-last, while Solwhit was the only one able to make an impression from the rear.
Solwhit and Celestial Halo were locked together going to the last, where Celestial Halo made a mistake and handed the advantage to his rival. Carberry's mount kept going strongly up the hill to record his seventh Grade 1 win in a marvellously consistent career.