IT’S been a long time coming but owners Noel and Valerie Moran of Bective Stud finally got their first Cheltenham Festival winner when Better Days Ahead landed the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle.

It was also a first Festival winner for jockey Danny Gilligan, and a third of the week for trainer Gordon Elliott.

Very well-backed at 5/1 in a field of 21, Better Days Ahead was never too far off the pace set by the keen-going Ocastle Des Mottes, with favourite Waterford Whispers also in close contention.

Waterford Whispers jumped on at halfway and looked likely to give trainer Henry de Bromhead and jockey Mikey O’Connor victory jumping the final flight. However, conditions favoured stamina and Better Days Ahead slowly closed down the leader and hit the front halfway up the run-in to score by two lengths.

The Willie Mullins-trained Quai De Bourbon was another half a length back in third, less than a length in front of Terence O’Brien’s Answer To Kayf in fourth, and they were well clear of the remainder.

An emotional Gordon Elliott said: “I’m delighted, first of all, to win the Martin Pipe, a race named after my idol. But delighted also to give Noel and Valerie their first Cheltenham winner. They sponsor the yard, they are good friends, they have put so much money into the game, and they sponsor Meath football.”

The winner was originally trained by Warren Ewing and was sold for £350,000 after winning his point-to-point.