Davy Russell & trainer Pat Kelly celebrate
©Healy Racing Photos
Davy Russell quickly made amends for being dumped at the start of the opening race when landing a narrow success on Mall Dini in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Final at Cheltenham.
Russell had been unseated from Zabana who was sideways on when the tape went up for the JLT Novices' Chase, but was smiling again after scoring on Patrick Kelly's six-year-old.
Flintham set a good pace until headed after the second-last by Join The Clan, who tried to set sail for home. His challenge was short lived as the pack closed in to produce a thrilling and dramatic finish.< Mall Dini (14-1) came out on top by three-quarters of a length from Arpege D'Alene, with the unlucky If In Doubt a head away third and top-weight Taglietelle fourth.
It was no surprise when a stewards' inquiry was called following such a tight end to the race, but the result was soon confirmed.
Russell said: "He's still a novice, all credit goes to Pat Kelly. What a man, not many people know him, he's a very shrewd man from Galway.
"The tongue strap has definitely helped him, he was over-doing things a bit and not breathing properly. It's all Pat Kelly's doing, he knew what the horse wanted. He's a genius.
"He pricked his ears at the last, when I landed I had to change my stick and he just wandered about a bit. He's a very good horse, without a doubt."
Kelly said: "He's a nice horse, progressing the whole time. It's very exciting. It's great to have a winner at Cheltenham - I've been here twice and haven't had much luck.
"We have a small number of horses - Philip (Reynolds, owner) and I have been friends for a long time and he was always on at me to buy a horse. He's fine, big-looking horse with a fine pedigree."
Reynolds said: "It's incredible, I've dreamt about this for so long. Pat Kelly trains five horses in a tiny village, this is what racing is all about. Pat is a fantastic trainer, he told me to be patient, he thinks he's a Grand National horse but we'll settle for this.
"We beat the favourite (Leave At Dawn) in the qualifier so I knew we shouldn't be far away."
Kelly went on: "In 1990, I had a horse that ran in the Supreme Novices' and he broke his leg, then the last runner I had in the four-miler, Willie Mullins rode him and unfortunately got unseated.
"We have a small number of horses - we've been training for quite a while - so it's nice to do it and make it third-time lucky here."