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By Martin Kelly, Press Association Sport. Last Updated: 19/03/10 3:20pm
Soldatino won a thrilling Triumph Hurdle.
Soldatino belied his inexperience to deny Barizan a gutsy front-running success by bridging a Grand Canyon-size gap in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday.
Barizan streaked away from the field in the opening event on the final day of the meeting and bounced off the quick ground to pull 15 lengths clear of the pack charging to the second-last.
In stark contrast Barry Geraghty had French import Soldatino buried away at the back of the field before making stealthy headway passing halfway.
The Gold Cup day crowd could sense a dramatic climax and the roars reached fever pitch as Barizan rounded the home turn with a healthy advantage, which was being eroded by Nicky Henderson's Soldatino.
The 6-1 chance slowly but surely ate into the lead and collared Barizan soon after the final flight to pull a length and a quarter clear.
Punters in Britain could be forgiven for not being familiar with the winner, who only arrived at Seven Barrows in recent weeks.
Bloodstock agent Anthony Bromley unearthed him at Pau late in January and he stamped his class on the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton late last month despite a lack of homework.
Turned out just 20 days later and he swept through the field sporting a pair of earplugs to earn a 33-1 quote with Sky Bet for next year's Champion Hurdle, in which Henderson already has an embarrassment of riches.
Henderson, who landed the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday with Binocular, now has 37 Festival wins to his name and was taking the Triumph for a fifth time following Zaynar's win 12 months ago.
The trainer said: "I'm thrilled for the horse, he's only a baby, they all are, but he's very inexperienced.
"This is lovely as we came here with a young squad all round and it is nice they are doing the job.
"You nearly felt sorry for the second horse because he got away from them. You have to say he's run a fantastic race.
"You worry that he is only a baby and it was a long way to have to go on your own and catch the other horse because the gap was huge, but he does stay.
"Anthony (Bromley) found him down in Pau in January so he hasn't been in England very long and he doesn't have much mileage on the clock.
"He's an exciting horse but I don't think you will see him again this season as I am inclined to put him away."
Geraghty was always confident of catching the front-runner, and said: "It was a good performance. The leader set off very quick, I had to drop in and switch off. The leader went off that quick he had to stop.
"I gave him a couple of slaps before the last to keep him going forward. I knew I would get there well enough.
"It's a long way from the second-last home and having gone that quick, he couldn't keep it up to the line."
Soldatino is owned by the increasingly prominent Simon Munir, who said: "I am glad we entered him in the Triumph. We only registered him the day the entries closed so it was a job to get him in.
"We ran him in the Adonis and that made us think to give the Triumph a go.
"Barizan was going to be difficult to catch but Barry said he had him covered."
The runner-up's trainer Evan Williams said: "It is disappointing to get gunned down close home but the winner is obviously a very talented horse.
"I told Tom (O'Brien) to be positive and I suppose if we had been more conservative we might have won, but we'll never know the answer to that.
"He needs good ground so Aintree is an obvious target and the track should suit."
The field finished well strung out with Alaivan a seven-length third, and his Irish compatriot and 7-2 favourite Carlito Brigante just over three lengths adrift in fourth.
Alaivan's rider Andrew McNamara said: "I thought the leader would have to stop for us to pick him up and as it happened he didn't. Third is as good as we were on the day."
His trainer Edward O'Grady added: "He has ran a great race and reversed form with Carlito Brigante, which we are delighted about.
"He could possibly take the same route as Jumbo Rio last year and go to France as he stays well and likes soft ground."