Agrapart completed a memorable double for Nick Williams and Lizzie Kelly, as he fought back gamely to reclaim the lead on the winning line and land the Grade 2 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Nine lined-up for this interesting 2 ½ mile contest which remembers the three-time Bula Hurdle winner Relkeel.
Disappointingly there were another three non-runners on this card and in this race, leaving just six to go to post for a valuable prize.
The former Stayers’ Hurdle winner Cole Harden, was straight into the lead and after two flights, had a three length advantage over Agrapart, with Camping Ground and Lil Rockerfeller next, pursued by Adrien Du Pont and L’Ami Serge.
The order remained similar as the field raced down the back straight, although Lil Rockerfeller came under strong pressure.
Up front, Cole Harden continued to lead and at the fourth last, Agrapart was still second, with Camping Ground and Adrien Du Pont and then Lil Rockerfeller, still under pressure but responding well and then L’Ami Serge, still close enough.
Racing downhill, Cole Harden had the edge still but all six horses were within four lengths. Lil Rockerfeller made progress still under pressure an at the second last, Cole Harden was joined by Agrapart, while Adrien Du Pont pecked on landing and unseated his rider.
Turning for home, Agrapart went on with Lil Rockerfeller pluggin on under pressure with Cole Harden, while L’Ami Serge travelled powerfully in behind.
At the last, L’Ami Serge was produced by Daryl Jacob and went on, but Agrapart refused to yield without a fight. Meeting he rising ground, Agrapart rallied well under a strong ride from Lizzie Kelly and started to claw back the narrow deficit.
On the line it was just on the nod and Agrapart got back up to deliver a big race double for Nick Williams and Kelly.
L’Ami Serge performed admirably on his return to hurdling and the front two pulled well clear of Cole Harden, with Lil Rockerfeller a well beaten fourth.
Kelly, riding just her third winner of the season, told ITV Racing: “I made the decision to go back home, we’ve got a lot of good horses and we just needed a bit of luck – today we’ve had it.
“This horse is a legend, I knew he had a great shout, the way he won the Betfair I knew he’d stay further and it’s rained all day, which was always going to suit him.
“We’d like to think he might stay three miles, maybe the Stayers’ Hurdle, you never know.
“It’s been a tough season and I’m just glad we’ve come here today and the hard work of everyone has paid off.”
Williams said: “I don’t know where we go next, he’s very much ground dependent as all his wins have been on heavy.
“The reason we came here was to see if we could step him up for the World (Stayers’) Hurdle.
“I think he’s a stayer on good to soft ground, we’ll probably go up in trip, he won’t go backwards in trip and we’ll point towards the Stayers’ Hurdle.”
He added: “It’s fantastic, we haven’t been winning many races recently, so it’s fantastic we’ve had two winners today.
“It was a brilliant ride by Lizzie, she’s very, very strong in a finish. She’s won a lot of photos against very strong jockeys and any thoughts of her not being strong enough in a finish are rubbish.”
Nicky Henderson said of L’Ami Serge: “I don’t think he did anything wrong, it looks like he enjoyed hurdling and I’m entitled to stay hurdling now.
“He ran like the best horse and didn’t do anything wrong, he travelled to me like a two-miler. He doesn’t look like a stayer and I don’t imagine he’ll be going any further.”