The Real Whacker made every yard to give Patrick Neville a fairytale victory in a thrilling edition of the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase at Cheltenham.
A winner at the Prestbury Park track on both of his previous outings this term, including the Dipper over shorter on New Year’s Day, he was bounced out by Sam Twiston-Davies to take up his customary position at the head of affairs.
The Real Whacker produced a clinical round of jumping on the front end, with the Daryl Jacob-ridden Bronn hot on his tail throughout.
Despite Galia Des Liteaux, favourite Gerri Colombe and the heavily-backed Sir Gerhard all edging their way into contention when the race began to develop, as the runners turned for home at the bottom of the famous hill it was The Real Whacker and Bronn that were still disputing matters.
Bronn was beaten off after the last, but the drama did not end there as Jordan Gainford conjured up extra from the fast-finishing Gerri Colombe who was staying on strongly as The Real Whacker’s stride began to shorten.
But the line came just in time for the 8-1 shot to give Neville his first winner at the Festival and the inspired Twiston-Davies his first since 2016.
"It was a fantastic race, it’s always a privilege to be asked to ride in these races," said the delighted winning rider.
"I was lucky to ride him in the Dipper, let alone today as well. Paddy Neville, all the way through, has been a great supporter. He said he was in wicked good nick and fair play, he was absolutely spot on.
"He races in a great manner – although he’s in front and he’s doing a lot of the hard work you’re able to get the breathers in everywhere you want. With his jumping he’s always filling himself up, my God it feels like a long way up the run-in!"
Neville, who is based in Yorkshire, said: "It was a long run to the line, but he toughed it out and he’s a lovely horse.
"The ground was a bit soft for him and we were dreading that, but he jumped well and it worked out.
"I was happy with the rhythm he was in and Sam kept him out for the better ground. We made that plan earlier on today and it worked.
"He’s won three times now here – I don’t think I’ll run him anywhere else!
"I trained in Ireland for 15 years and had a couple of good winners, but the last couple of years were tough as I just couldn’t get the owners. Hopefully it will work out better over here."
Considering future plans, the trainer added: "If we can keep him one piece, we’ll come back here next year for the Gold Cup.
"I was toying with the Gold Cup this year, but we probably made the right decision for the horse because he’d only run six times before today.
"We’ll see how he comes out of this. We might put him away for the summer or we might go to Punchestown and we might go to Listowel in the autumn as it’s one of my favourite tracks."