Sire Du Berlais shocked reigning Stayers’ Hurdle champion Flooring Porter in the JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree.
A 16-1 chance for Gordon Elliott and Mark Walsh, Sire Du Berlais looked up against it as dual Cheltenham Festival victor Flooring Porter set out to make all in the Grade One in the hands of Danny Mullins.
All appeared to be going to plan for the 11-8 favourite as Mullins built up an early advantage before giving Flooring Porter a bit of a breather ahead of the run for home.
Thyme Hill and Molly Ollys Wishes tried their best to keep pace but could not go on as Flooring Porter kicked, leaving Sire Du Berlais the only credible challenger in the hands of Walsh.
The pair were locked in battle at the last, jumping in unison, although Flooring Porter landed a little awkwardly and had to be put straight again by Mullins, losing a touch of momentum in the process.
Sire Du Berlais eventually made that advantage count and while he did drift to the rail, slightly checking Flooring Porter in the process, he eventually came home a length and three-quarters to the good. Champ kept on for third, beaten 20 lengths, with Thomas Darby a head back in fourth.
Elliott said: “He’s tough. We thought he’d run well in the Pertemps at Cheltenham (11th) but that race just didn’t work out for him.
“That’s great, and I think the long straight really helped him as he got into a lovely rhythm and he jumped great.
“I don’t know about Punchestown, we’ll enjoy today and see what happens.
“I suppose it is a bit of a surprise but that’s the game we’re in. I’d say the better ground helped him.”
Flooring Porter’s trainer Gavin Cromwell was philosophical in defeat, with next year’s Festival and a Stayers’ Hurdle hat-trick on the agenda.
He said: “I thought he was a bit gassy and fresh going to the start and then again in the race itself.
“He got beat, but that’s racing, and he was a length and three-quarters down at the line.
“I hope we can bring him back to Cheltenham for another crack at the Stayers’ next season.”
Champ finished one place better than at Cheltenham, although he was beaten four lengths by Flooring Porter on that occasion.
His trainer Nicky Henderson said: “He stayed on well from a fair way back. He’s entered in Ireland (Punchestown) but we’ll have to see.”