HAWK HIGH swooped with a perfectly timed run to give Ryedale trainer Tim Easterby his first Cheltenham Festival winner in 15 years.
Not since Barton routed the field in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in 1999 had the Great Habton handler found himself in the winner’s enclosure, but Hawk High - a 33-1 shot - beat Katgary by three-quarters of a length in an eventful Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle.
There was carnage when Clarcam fell when in front two flights out but Easterby’s four-year-old, ridden by Brian Hughes, avoided the mayhem and hit the lead after the last.
Katgary was not so fortunate, clearly hindered, and could not close the gap as North Yorkshire celebrated its first Festival winner of the week.
A thrilled Easterby, visibly beaming following the result, said: “I’m delighted - this is the best place in the world.
“Brian gave him a great ride. He jumped well and got him into a good rhythm and did everything you want to do.
“He didn’t go for the inside, he was nice up the straight there. It’s all about getting a good position and jumping well round here and he did exactly that all the way round. He was fit and well and you can’t ask for any more than that.
“We always thought he was a decent horse. He was bred by his owner Trevor Hemmings and as soon as we got him as a two-yearold, I had jumping in mind for him.”
Fred Winter, and Easterby’s father Peter, were regularly fighting for the champion trainer title in the 1970s when the Great Habton yard produced the likes of Night Nurse, Alverton and Sea Pigeon.
And Easterby said that meant winning the race was even more special.
“It’s great,” he added. “My father and Fred Winter were good rivals - friendly rivals - and my father was champion trainer and so was Fred.
“They were always nip and tuck so there’s a bit of family history and there’s something about the race.
“It’s a fantastic day for the yard.”
The victory also brought some compensation for jockey Hughes, who was on board Attaglance on Tuesday in the Rewards4Racing Novices’ Chase and was obstructed by Present View when challenging for the win.
The stewards did not reverse the placings.
He said: “In some ways it makes up for it and in some ways it doesn’t as I should really be on two winners now.
“It was disappointing to miss out but what happened happened and if it had come off, I’d have been the hero.
“It’s a hard place to ride and a hard place to get a good start.
“I found myself on the inner after the horse fell and brought the other one down so I was in a good position after that.
“When you have a good Flat horse like this one, they often have a chance on ground like this and he’s definitely gone better on it.”