TRAINER Harry Fry was proud in defeat after the previously unbeaten Neon Wolf succumbed to such a slender margin at the Cheltenham Festival.

Willoughby Court showed bravery to land the Neptune Investment Management Novice’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park. The 14-1 chance, trained by Ben Pauling and ridden by David Bass, had looked a sitting duck once Neon Wolf made his move.

But try as he might along the run-in, the 2-1 favourite could not get on level terms with the front-running Willoughby Court, who was announced the winner after a photo-finish, getting the nod by a head.

Messire Des Obeaux finished third at odds of 8-1.

The Seaborough handler said: “He has ran a great race and all credit to the winner, who has just pulled out more and more.

“I’m absolutely delighted with the run. We had a certain Rock On Ruby finish second, beaten a short head, in this race and he didn’t do too bad.

“We would have liked to have won, but all credit to Ben Pauling and his team as it was a fantastic performance. He was second best on the day but he ran a good race. We will get home and look forward to having an exciting young horse on our hands.

“He got the trip no problem and was coming back at the end, but the winner kept pulling out a bit more. The owner is very keen on Punchestown, so we will have a look and see. The first thing is to make sure he comes out of this okay.”

Fry will hope to land a winner tomorrow when stable star Unowhatimeanharry goes in the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (3.30) at the Festival.