HOBBS AND JOHNSON TRIUMPH WITH DEFI DU SEUIL
Defi Du Seuil justified his position as the long-time leader in the JCB Triumph Hurdle market by winning by a comfortable five lengths. He started the well-backed 5/2 favourite.
Ridden by champion jockey Richard Johnson, for whom it was a second Festival winner of the week, the French-bred gelding is owned by J P McManus and trained by Philip Hobbs, who has two previous JCB Triumph Hurdle winners to his credit in Detroit City and Made In Japan.
An emotional Hobbs explained his reddened eyes, saying: "It's the relief! He's been favourite all year and it's great when it goes right. He's such a fantastic horse. He has always jumped well - there have been one or two little hiccups, particularly at Chepstow when he won there, but his jumping overall is mustard.
"He's never run on good ground so it was an unknown and therefore a bit of a concern, but there was no reason why it shouldn't have suited him. He's run six times for us and won each time easily."
Hobbs' wife Sarah said: "I'm shaking. It's so exciting. J P [McManus] has been brilliant, and this horse is amazing. He tries, he wants to do it - he loves it. He's so bonny."
Asked whether Defi Du Seuil would attempt to emulate Hobbs' 2003 Stan James Champion Hurdle winner Rooster Booster in 2018, he replied: "He could run in the Arkle or the Champion Hurdle next year. He could do either. I haven't schooled him over fences but it wouldn't be a problem.
"You shouldn't get too bullish too early, but he has a fantastic attitude and is very sound. He's got fantastic ability, so he has everything going for him."
RICHARD JOHNSON - "I WAS A PASSENGER ALL THE WAY"
Defi Du Seuil's success was a third JCB Triumph Hurdle win for the jockey-trainer combination of Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs, following Detroit City's victory in 2006 and Made In Japan in 2004.
Johnson said: "He was the best horse in the race and he jumped and travelled. He was always going well and I was always happy with him. I knew he'd stay and that I could pick him up as I wished. I was a passenger all the way to be honest.
"On the better ground there were a few negatives with people suggesting he wouldn't be good enough, but he has just improved all year.
"I cannot believe this is the same horse I rode at Ffos Las four or five months ago. All credit to Philip. He has campaigned him so smoothly through the year.
"He is an honour to ride. He travelled so easy and jumped so well that I was trying not to be on my own for too long. He jumped two out so well and it is a dream to travel that well after two out in a race around here.
"He shocked me at Christmas with how much pure speed and class he has. Christmas was my fault completely and I apologised to Mr McManus afterwards. I was worried the leader was going to get first run on me, so I squeezed him and lit him up and got there too soon on bad ground.
"I spoke to Barry this morning. He told me exactly how to ride him. That would have been hard for him to watch, but hopefully Barry will be back for Aintree and this horse is one he can look forward to riding."
Asked whether Defi Du Seuil might be a Stan James Champion Hurdle horse, Johnson said: "I don't know. It is hard with juveniles, but he has done everything he has ever been asked. He is not a typical ex-Flat horse and I think he will improve with time."
Johnson also reported that the ground to be "on the slow side of good."