The Tom George trained Summerville Boy snatched victory in the opening race of The Festival 2018, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, in the last few strides of the race. Mistakes at the final two hurdles did not help the winner's cause, but he plugged on dourly and collared runner-up Kalashnikov (5/1) near the line to score by a neck, with a further length and three-quarters back to third-placed Mengli Khan (14/1).
Summerville Boy on the way to the winner's circle
The winning owner, Roger Brookhouse, bought Summerville Boy at Goffs UK's Spring Sale after the horse had won a bumper in Ireland.
George, for whom it was a second Festival winner - his first was Galileo in the 2002 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle - said: "After he made those two or three mistakes, I thought we would be doing well to get in the first four, and he just kept picking up again. I suppose he won by four lengths going away at Sandown [in the G1 Tolworth Hurdle] and without those mistakes he would have done the same today. But you can't knock him for what he's done - he's still an inexperienced horse.
"To give Noel [Fehily, who rode Summerville Boy] his due, he got beaten on him early on in the season round here and he said that day that none of those horses would ever beat us with a true-run gallop, and he was correct. The horse has taken a lot of switching off at home, as well. He's ridden by one of my best riders, an Indian lad called Singh, and he's absolutely made that horse. He told me he would win a Grade One."
Asked about what he thought might lie ahead for the horse, George replied: "I'm sure [owner] Roger Brookhouse and I will hatch a few plans but let's just enjoy today. He was very, very ready for today so whether that might just empty him a bit, I don't know, but we've done the job we needed to."
Roger Brookhouse, owner of Summerville Boy, said: "That feels very good! We thought the horse had a very good engine and we didn't think the ground would be a bother to him. You want to stay in this and he's certainly done it. He made a mistake at the second-last and the last and he still got back up."
Fehily said: "Summerville Boy is a wonderful horse. What a training performance from Tom George - this horse was absolutely cherry-ripe today.
"I was nearly off him at the second-last, where [unplaced 7/4 favourite] Getabird came across me slightly and it was just enough to put him off - he just dropped his back legs on landing.
"How we came back from there I don't know, because we must have lost four or five lengths at that point. It was a great comeback.
"He wasn't great at the last either, although he did that when winning at Sandown and it didn't stop him.
"He's a very good horse and he's settling better - the earplugs just helped him a bit today. He's growing up all the time and Tom has been very happy with him during the past few weeks. It's come off and it feels great.
"It's a great start to get a winner early at The Festival - it is just magic. To win the first just helps you settle in for the rest of the week.
"That Tolworth form has stood up really well - Kalashnikov has finished second again.
"Kalashnikov is a great horse - a Betfair Hurdle winner which is a difficult race for a novice - and that is rock solid form. It is tremendous we came out on top today."
1.30pm Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1)
1 SUMMERVILLE BOY (Roger Brookhouse) Tom George 6-11-07 Noel Fehily 9/1
2 KALASHNIKOV (Paul Murphy) Amy Murphy 5-11-07 Jack Quinlan 5/1
3 MENGHLI KHAN (Gigginstown House Stud) Gordon Elliott IRE 5-11-07 Jack Kennedy 14/1
7/4 fav Getabird (11th)
Distances: nk, 1¾
Tote Win: £6.50 Places: £2.10, £2.10, £4.20 Exacta: £28.10
Tom George - 2nd winner at The Festival
Noel Fehily - 6th winner at The Festival
BetBright Cup - standings after one race
Great Britain 1 Ireland 0