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Last Updated: 10/03/09 4:31pm
Go Native takes the honours for Ireland.
Ireland got off to their customary flying start at the Cheltenham Festival as the absent Noel Meade scooped his second williamhill.com Supreme Novices' Hurdle courtesy of Go Native.
The Irish have been responsible for six of the eight winners of the meeting's curtain-raiser since the turn of the century - and Meade added to the tally with his 12-1 winner.
Meade has not found Cheltenham a happy-hunting ground over the years, with the multiple Irish champion trainer having just two winners to his name - Nicanor in the 2006 Ballymore Properties and Sausalito Bay, the conqueror of Best Mate, in this race nine years ago.
He ironically failed to make the journey to welcome in Paul Carberry's mount as he recovers at home from a back operation.
Carberry was having his first ride in over a week after sustaining a leg injury and was forced to kick on rounding the turn when sensing trouble in running.
His mount, who had finished second to the supremely-talented Hurricane Fly earlier in the campaign, overcame a slight mistake at the last to keep finding more up the hill and secure the opening event by a neck.
Medermit was done no favours by 9-4 favourite Cousin Vinny over the final flight but the tough grey scrapped his way back into contention and was closing all the way to the line in second.
His efforts narrowly fell short, much to the joy of Meade.
"My back's pretty good at the minute, so there's every possibility of a celebration tonight," said Meade, who was speaking from his home in Navan.
"He got beat at Christmas by an exceptional horse in Hurricane Fly.
"He made a mistake at the last that day - it wouldn't have made the difference to winning, but he would have been closer than he was.
"When he got beat last summer he pulled a ligament high up in the back of his knee and it gave him a lot of trouble for quite a while, so it's probable that he's improving still.
"I'm sure Paul felt he got there too soon - I thought he did - but it was just the way it worked out for him.
"It was the longest run-in I can ever remember going up that straight, but he got there anyway."
Meade's assistant trainer Gillian O'Brien added: "We have fancied the horse quietly all of the time.
"He has come over and I couldn't have been happier with him - he has ate and drank and is very straight-forward to deal with.
"He came out of his last race well and has grown up. He has got stronger as the season has gone on.
"He got a dream run round and Paul thought that at the last bend he was maybe going to get cut off so he had to go, and then got there too soon.
"It was a long way up the hill - and I don't know if Noel will ever be able to face coming here again!"
Ladbrokes introduced Go Native into the 2010 Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at 33-1.
Carberry said: "I fancied him the whole time and I thought that might have put he mockers on him.
"The meeting couldn't have started better.
"He travelled great the whole way, he jumped super. He jumped the second-last really well but I didn't want to be there too early.
"At the last he put down and when he heard the other horse coming he battled on to the line. If I was to do it again I would wait until after the last to go on.
"It's brilliant to come back. And it's great for Noel. I think he'll be running round the yard at the moment.
"The pressure is off winning the first race - and you just need to get some more on the board after that."
Medermit had been off the track since December, having had his intended prep in the totesport Trophy scuppered by the weather.
Connections were delighted with his strong-finishing effort.
Trainer Alan King said of the runner-up: "If someone had offered me that this morning I would have taken it.
"He got into a little bit of a problem, probably because he wasn't travelling too well, but it was a good performance.
"The winner was idling a little. We'll keep him going for Aintree and Punchestown. We could step him up a little in trip, but we will see."
Somersby and Copper Bleu filled the minor honours, with 9-4 favourite and last year's bumper winner Cousin Vinny finding little up the hill and weakening to fifth.