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Champion glory for Rock
Paul Nicholls' name is now in the record books for the Stan James Champion Hurdle but the trainer deflected all the credit for the preparation of Rock On Ruby as he completed his full set of major Cheltenham Festival titles.
Rather than at the main stable in Somerset, Rock On Ruby lives 25 miles across the county border in Seaborough, Dorset, and his schedule is overseen by Nicholls' former assistant Harry Fry and his mentor, point-to-point maestro Richard Barber.
Largely discarded in the betting at 11-1, Rock On Ruby came to the rescue of bookmakers and caused a mountain of accumulators rolling on to 4-6 favourite Hurricane Fly to flutter away by the wayside.
Noel Fehily sat just off the fierce pace set by Overturn until striking out for home at the second-last flight on Rock On Ruby and the solid stayer never showed any likelihood of stopping to open a gap of three and three-quarter lengths to Overturn by the line. Hurricane Fly finished third.
Nicholls, completing the 'triple crown' of Champion Hurdle, Gold Cup and Champion Chase, said: "This is a big team effort and the godfather of all this is Richard Barber. He's the one who got me my job with (landlord) Paul Barber and he and Harry have done a fantastic job with the horse.
"I get there when I can, but I don't need to as I can just let them get on with it. Harry was my assistant for five or six years and he was thinking of leaving and I said it would be good for him to go and work with Richard. He'll have a big future.
"Rock On Ruby looked outstanding. I've been worried about a few of my horses, with the coughing we had, but Seaborough has been flying. Everyone gets so much pleasure from this and I feel privileged to be part of it."
Fehily added: "I missed the last two Festivals so this makes it really special. The Champion Hurdle is a race you want to win, but you never think it will happen. I hoped Ruby wasn't stalking me (on Hurricane Fly), but I gave him a good kick and I knew it would take a good one to pass him."
Fry, 25, said: "I thought he had a good chance and we came here to win. I've been with Richard since I started riding out at 13 and I wanted to be a jockey until I became too big. I was going to go to university but Richard asked me to spend my gap year with him. To work with the likes of Richard and Paul, I can't thank them enough."
Fry is as responsible as Nicholls for future plans for the seven-year-old, and he added: "We'll enjoy today and see how he comes out of the race, but he could possibly go to the Aintree Hurdle."