IF The Cap Fits emerged victorious after a pulsating climax to the Grade 1 Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at Aintree.
A field of 15 runners went to post for the three-mile event and the focus of attention pre-race was Gordon Elliott’s prolific mare Apple’s Jade, who was bidding to bounce back from a disappointing run when favourite for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
She was a warm order to rediscover the winning trail as the 5/6 market leader and for much of the way she appeared in complete control, as she adopted her customary pacesetting role in the hands of Jack Kennedy.
However, it was clear early in the home straight she had a real race on her hands, with both Harry Fry’s If The Cap Fits and Dan Skelton’s Mares’ Hurdle winner Roksana moving into contention.
There was little to choose between the trio jumping the final flight and all three horses gave their all up the run-in.
In the final strides Apple’s Jade wilted slightly and If The Cap Fits and Roksana flashed by the post almost as one, but the judge confirmed the former had won by a head – providing jockey Sean Bowen with his first top-level success.
Apple’s Jade was only a neck further away in third.