Lee Edwards breathed a huge sigh of relief after tasting Fontwell glory yesterday.
The talented conditional jockey partnered Dirty Deal to a 9/1 victory in the Docker Hughes Memorial Handicap Hurdle at the West Sussex course.
But their triumph looked an impossible dream when the eight-year-old mare blundered at the last hurdle in the home straight, with a circuit still to travel.
Edwards was catapulted out of his seat, lost an iron and juggled his whip before scrambling back on board to win by one-and-three-quarter lengths from Anay Turge.
The relief was plain to see on the 23-year-old’s face as he returned to the winner’s enclosure to meet Worcestershire trainer Tony Carroll and owner Jason Tucker.
Edwards, who was completing a hat-trick after a double for the same trainer on Tuesday, said: ‘There were a couple of hairy moments there and I was lucky to get back in one piece.
‘She just got in deep at that hurdle and overcompensated by jumping it big.
‘In that bit of soft ground out there, she has stumbled on landing, I’ve gone one way and she’s gone the other.
‘Fortunately, she has come back underneath me and I got my iron back.
‘I thought I was gone at that point.
‘Then I did, then I didn’t and then I was back on.
‘I almost lost my stick, too.
‘I can’t quite believe I managed to catch it again.
‘It was a huge relief in the end, especially to be able to return with a win for the owner.
‘He is a very loyal man, so for me to have a winner for him – and that’s my first for him – is great.
‘I’m really chuffed with that.’
Edwards’ celebrations were later dampened when he learned he had been hit with a whip ban.
The rider was found guilty of using his stick too often and will be suspended for five days from Thursday, January 26.
The ban will rule him out of the next meeting at Fontwell, which takes place on Friday, January 27.
Meanwhile, What Yer Say shocked everyone – including his trainer – when he won the Blue Square Staying Novices’ Hurdle at 40/1.
His handler Jeremy Scott didn’t expect him to handle the soft ground but he stayed on to beat the Paul Nicholls-trained Bold Chief by a length.
The formerly smart Marodima then romped to victory in the Horton’s Steam Fair Handicap Chase at 5/1.
Once rated 148 over fences, he cruised to success for trainer Jamie Snowden off a mark of 112.
King Of Castile won the Welcome To Baby Joshua Warren Handicap Hurdle at 11/4, while the SIS Live Handicap Chase went to 7/2-shot Mortimers Cross and amateur jockey Robert Cooper.
Cooper had earlier in the day been hit with a whopping 52-day ban for overuse of the whip on December 31 and duly celebrated his win by launching his stick into the crowd.
Danandy brought the curtain down on the track’s first meeting of 2012 with victory in the bumper at 4/1.