NIETZSCHE was a surprise winner of the Grade 3 Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle for trainer Brian Ellison and in-form conditional jockey Danny McMenamin.
The five-year-old, without a win over jumps in 11 starts since January 2017, reserved his best for the biggest stage at Cheltenham as he stayed on with great determination to foil Silver Streak’s hat-trick bid by a neck.
In a race reduced to just five flights of hurdles because of the low sun, Nietzsche made the most of his minimum weight of 10st – and his jockey’s 7lb allowance – stealing into contention before what became the second last and holding off a sustained challenge from Evan Williams’ runner-up.
Top-weight Old Guard, a previous winner of this coveted two-mile, half-furlong handicap, kept on admirably to finish third for Paul Nicholls – with 9/2 favourite Verdana Blue a further half-length back in fourth.
Ellison said: “It’s fantastic. This horse was third in the (2017) Fred Winter and for some reason he just lost his way last winter.
“We just decided to put a tongue strap on him as we scoped him and we couldn’t find anything wrong with him. We ran him at Newmarket with it on and he ran well so we left it on.
“I was very optimistic as he has run some good races here. I was just worried he hit the front too early.”
Of the winning rider, Ellison added: “He works at Nicky Richards’ and I watched him and I spoke to his agent Richard Hale and he thinks he is good.
“I used him the other day and he gave that a great ride, so he was worth taking the claim off.”
Ellison recently enjoyed a trip to the Breeders’ Cup meeting with The Mackem Bullet and said: “America was good, but it was not as good as here.
“This was the plan as the owner lives here so it is fantastic for him. He will be in those kind of races like what was the Ladbroke.”
Williams is now eyeing a step up in class for Silver Streak. He said: “I did think he was going to get there. The horse has run a great race and the winner had been third in a Fred Winter and we had forgot about him a bit.
“I don’t think we are worried about the ground, but the handicapper will probably stop us winning handicaps as I’m sure he will go up. We will probably dip our toe into a conditions race somewhere.
“I imagine the International is a race we could look at. The race I wanted to win was the Welsh Champion Hurdle, which he has done. We were beaten fair and square today. “