Espoir D'Allen has won the featured unibet Champion Hurdle for Limerick owner JP McManus at Cheltemham
LIMERICK owner JP McManus had his colours carried to victory in the feature race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, but not with his leading market fancy.
16/1 shot Espoir D'Allen, ridden by Mark Walsh and trained by Gavin Cromwell, carried McManus' famed green and gold colours to a shock victory in the Grade 1 Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham on Tuesday.
McManus' more fancied runner Buveur D'Air, seeking a hat-trick of wins in the race, came down at third hurdle.
Espor D'Allen was an impressive winner at Limerick Racecourse at Christmas on his second last start prior to his success in hurdling's blue riband.
Winning trainer Gavin Cromwell said:"I am shellshocked. It absolutely skated up, I am so lost for words. It's just unbelievable."
Leading fancy Apple's Jade faded down the back straight as the pace increased, while another fancied Irish mare Laurina failed to pick up once let down by Ruby Walsh and came home fourth.
Espoir D'Allen is a 5-1 shot to retain the two-mile hurdling crown in the 2020 Champion Hurdle.