Agrapart gamely lands Relkeel to give Kelly a double
Agrapart (centre) jumps the last on his way to winning the Relkeel
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Agrapart proves too tough in the Relkeel By Tony McFadden 3:10PM 1 JAN 2017
Report: Cheltenham, Sunday
Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m4½f, 5yo+
AGRAPART and Lizzie Kelly got the better of a thrilling finish to the Relkeel Hurdle, staying on strongly after the last to edge out 2-1 favourite L'Ami Serge.
L'Ami Serge looked to have matters under control when jumping to the front at the final flight but 16-1 shot Agrapart found plenty for pressure to prevail by a head.
Last year's Betfair Hurdle winner was completing a double on the card for Kelly and trainer Nick Williams following Coo Star Sivola's success in the opening Listed novices' hurdle.
A delighted Kelly said: "He's a legend. I knew I had a good shout. I always thought he'd stay further and the rain was always going to suit him. I'm just glad we've come here today and the hard work has paid off."
Agrapart, who thoroughly saw out the 2m4½f trip, has earned quotes for the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and is a 33-1 shot with Paddy Power.
How the race was won
Cole Harden was bounced into the lead by Richard Johnson, with Agrapart and last year's winner Camping Ground tracking the pace-setter.
L'Ami Serge, held up in rear by Daryl Jacob, travelled well for much of the race and his backers would have been confident when principal market rival Lil Rockerfeller started to struggle half-way down the back.
Most of the field still held a chance as the runners headed down the hill but Adrien Du Pont fell two-out, and L'Ami Serge moved ominously on to the heels of the leaders.
He moved comfortably into the lead but couldn't fend off the renewed challenge of Agrapart, who fought his way to get up close home after a thrilling, slow-motion finish. Cole Harden finished seven lengths further back in third.