Paul Carberry is regarded as one of jumping's finest talents but it was only at the advanced age of 39 that he was finally able to claim success in a Cheltenham Festival championship event by guiding Solwhit clear in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
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The Irishman required an injection after agitating an old problem in a fall on Tuesday and he hardly had a mount with a pristine medical record either, as trainer Charles Byrnes had only managed to fit a couple of runs into the gelding over the previous two years.
Although the injury to Big Buck's had thrown the staying crown wide open after his domination for the past four seasons, his owner Andy Stewart nearly held on to the trophy in unexpected fashion until his 40/1 shot Celestial Halo lost momentum at the final flight and Carberry surged two lengths in front.
Hurricane Fly had inflicted many defeats upon Solwhit during his career, and while Byrnes' star is one of the very few horses to have beaten the dual champion hurdler over timber, the canny Limerick trainer felt Solwhit would be better served by avoiding him and stepping up in distance.
It was a chance ride for Carberry, who has demonstrated his patience and finesse in many of the novice and handicaps at this meeting, as well as in the Grand National.
"I think this is the top," he said. "I've won some big races and had some great rides here like on Frenchman's Creek, Bellvano and Crack Away Jack. I've finished second in a Gold Cup and a Champion Hurdle, but this is the first major one. I'm only 39, so there's plenty of time to get the other big ones!
"I was supposed to be riding Monksland, but he was pulled out. This was Davy Russell's horse but he has turned out to be a great spare and I thought he had a great chance."
Referring to his own health, he said: "I got a bad bang on the shoulder the other day, it just hurt my ligaments and tendons.
"I had a couple of shots in it, which didn't work out yesterday but my own doctor came over, gave me an injection and it worked."
Russell was in hospital with a punctured lung at the time, with his mount Bog Warrior going to Bryan Cooper, who dominated until the final flight, where the strong-challenging Celestial Halo barely had his nose in front before Solwhit (17/2) was ahead.
"I was always afraid to take it up too early," Carberry said.
"Charles said to attack at the last so I timed it as well as I could. Celestial Halo made a bit of a mistake at the last, and he pricked his ears a bit but kept going to the line."
For quite a low-key performer, Solwhit has now won seven Grade Ones including an Irish Champion and an Aintree Hurdle.
"A lot of work went into him, everyone at home has looked after him so well and it's a big thank you to the owners for sticking with it," said Byrnes.
"We were actually looking at this race two years ago but he had a tendon problem, a bit of heat in his leg.
"We tried to bring him back last year, but we weren't happy so we had to give him the rest of the year (off).
"He's a serious horse. He's the only horse that could run Hurricane Fly close and he hasn't lost it.
"We knew he was coming back, but it was only in the last two weeks it all came together."
While Byrnes has managed to sidestep Hurricane Fly for now, an intriguing clash with his old rival could await at Auteuil in June as the trainer said: "We'll look to coming back next year but he won't go to Aintree now. He could go to Punchestown, and we'll also have a look at the French Champion Hurdle."
Stewart hopes to have Big Buck's available to regain his crown by this time next year, and the owner said: "I was getting a bit excited there for a moment, but well done to the winner.
"My expectations today were that the horse would run a reasonable race, I thought he might come in the first four or five.
"Hopefully the winner, Celestial Halo and the big fellow (Big Buck's) will all be back next year. Coming over the last I thought at one point we might win, but he was getting a bit tired."
His trainer Paul Nicholls added: "If Big Buck's hadn't been around he would have been running over this trip earlier and he has given us a blinding run. Now we'll go to Aintree and Punchestown."
Smad Place replicated his third-placed finish from a year ago and trainer Alan King will turn the grey's attentions to chasing next year.