Sire Du Berlais ground down Dashel Drasher late on in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle as the big-race outsiders fought out a thrilling finish to the Cheltenham Festival’s day three feature.
At one stage it looked as if Flooring Porter was about to join the Festival immortals and secure his third straight victory in the race, but his tank emptied quicker than in the previous two years and he was passed heading to the last by Dashel Drasher who set sail for home in the hands of Rex Dingle.
A length to the good jumping the final flight, Jeremy Scott’s admirable 10-year-old stuck his head down as the Gordon Elliott-trained pair of Sire Du Berlais and Teahupoo were breathing down his neck.
But while the 5-2 favourite could not get by in the hands of Davy Russell, Dashel Drasher had no answer to the late thrust of the JP McManus-owned 33-1 shot who edged his way to a three-quarters of a length verdict.
Dashel Drasher was a brave second at 40-1 and Teahupoo a further neck back in third – but there was a change to the placings in the stewards’ room as it was deemed Dashel Drasher had caused interference at the last that was sufficient to deny Teahupoo second spot.
A runner-up behind Flooring Porter in this in 2021 and also a dual winner of the Pertemps in both 2019 and 2020, the 11-year-old Sire Du Berlais was somewhat the forgotten horse of the race and handed Cullentra House handler Elliott his first victory in this premier staying hurdling contest.
Elliott said: “After a hurdle or two I knew he was in a good rhythm. Of course it’s a surprise, but Sire Du Berlais can do that – he’s either first or last.
“He stayed on well up the hill in fairness to him and Mark (Walsh) gave him a brilliant ride.
“It’s great to win the race. We were beaten a short head in a Grade One yesterday (with Gerri Colombe), but it’s a great game and it’s great to be here.
“We couldn’t get him qualified for the Pertemps Final. It just didn’t work out for us with ground one day and he probably didn’t look that well handicapped.
“He doesn’t do anything too exciting as he minds himself, but that’s why he’s still going at his age.
“I thought Teahupoo would win. He travelled into it and ran well.”
Walsh has had a bad run of luck with injuries but made it back in time for Cheltenham.
“It was a bit of a rush to get back, but thankfully I got back with the help of all the surgeons and doctors,” he said. “I fractured vertebrae in my neck at the Dublin Racing Festival, but it healed quick so I’m back.
“He is brilliant and he loves this place. He never knows when he is beaten. A good gallop suited and he travelled great for him, as usually he can be on and off the bridle but he travelled great and jumped great.
“Gordon had him spot on today so all credit to him. He loves it around here and he is a joy to ride so it is brilliant to win on him.
“They always say horses for courses and he loves it here and it is great to get a big one on him today. I’m delighted he was able to be here and take part in this and win it. It is great to get another big one at the Festival.”
McManus said: “I thought he ran well in Navan the last day as he was giving a lot of weight away and was running on well at the end. I thought he deserved to take his chance.
“I’ve not had too many 33-1 winners here. Creon won at a big price, as did Kadoun (both 50-1 in the Pertemps Final). This fellow I’m afraid went unbacked! We’ll enjoy it just the same.
“Gordon has done some job on the horse. We were kind of training him for the Pertemps, but he didn’t get qualified and as a result he was in the Stayers’.
“I must say I thought he had a little chance and after the last I felt he would run up the hill well and give it his lot.”
Scott, speaking before Dashel Drasher was placed third, said: “We came here but we weren’t necessarily thinking we belonged here as we hadn’t had the easiest lead into the race, but he just started bouncing again so we came.
“I’m delighted. Obviously I would have loved to have finished in the other spot, but I’m very proud of him.
“It’s the first time my wife has come to watch him and she bred him and quite frankly does most of the training so it was lovely to have her here.”
Russell said of Teahupoo: “He jumped great, he missed the second-last but I didn’t need it as I wasn’t under pressure.
“I just couldn’t get upsides Dashel Drasher in the straight, he kept going left then right and if I’d got upsides him I might have been all right.
“Off the back of the last he just kept going the same pace but he’s run a lovely race, he’s only six. I’d say Gordon’s a lot happier with this result than I am!”
Gavin Cromwell said of the defending champion Flooring Porter: “He looked his old self, he went a right good gallop, Danny (Mullins) just felt he couldn’t get a breather into him but he ran a good, solid race.
“He ran a gallant race, five or six weeks ago it wasn’t looking like we’d be here but the last three weeks I was confident he’d run a solid race.”