Minella Forfitness got up in the last stride to deny Cheltenian a winning comeback in the SIG Insulation EBF "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle at Doncaster.
The 9-4 favourite was only third over the final flight, but responded to Barry Geraghty's urgings on the drive to the line to strike by a short head.
"He ran a bit with the choke out so I had to wait until he filled up again. I think he's suited by further. It was only after the last when I felt I had a chance. He's more of a horse for next year," said Geraghty.
While disappointed at the agonising defeat, trainer Philip Hobbs was delighted with Cheltenian, who was having his first run since winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in March 2011.
"He's run fantastic, but it's frustrating that he just got beat. We'll have to see how he is in the couple of weeks. Hopefully he'll go to Cheltenham but he's only had this one run in the last two years," he said.
"He's in the two-mile (Supreme) and the two-mile-five (Neptune Investment Management). We'll have to see what the ground's like but he looks to have plenty of pace for two (miles)."
Geraghty was completing a double for the Henderson team, begun by Otto The Great (5-2) in the 32Red Novices' Chase. Given plenty of room out wide by Barry Geraghty to have a good look at the obstacles, the Nicky Henderson-trained grey put in an assured display to dispense of three rivals.
"He jumped brilliantly. We just got racing a bit early in the straight and galloped into the fourth-last. Apart from that he was foot perfect. He didn't win over hurdles but had some great runs. He disappointed at Newbury, but we always knew he would take to fences," said Geraghty.
Hobbs and jockey Richard Johnson gained some compensation for Cheltenian's defeat when Doctor Foxtrot (20-1) overcame a 518-day absence to win the SIS Live Handicap Hurdle and deny Geraghty, on the length-and-a-quarter runner-up Mister Dillon, a treble.
Tom O'Brien will miss the Cheltenham Festival after he was hit with a 10-day suspension in Minella Forfitness' race. O'Brien was found guilty of "failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures to obtain the best possible placing" aboard Benefit Cut, who finished seventh.
26 May 2015Double sets welcome mark for Gask
Haggas on War footing for Ascot
Rain would boost Sand Ascot dream
Oaks trip to suit Legatissimo
Coronation up Dolniya's street
Karaktar on track for French Derby
Punters' Pal Set For Musselburgh
Ribbons may cut a dash to Curragh
Simenon bids for Henry II rule
Gosden duo at ease for Brigadier
Derby duo gives Gosden glee
Found remains in Derby hat
Park satisfies in Epsom spin
Angel of the north has Royal aim
Treve delights Head-Maarek
Epicuris heads to Epsom
Fire lit up for Redcar gold run
Park set for Epsom 'sighter'
Karpino oozes class in Cologne
Limato set for Haydock weekend run
Moviesta pleases in Curragh spin
Leisure date for Lucky
Prince to step up
Cirrus likely to bypass Epsom
Ascot option for Devonshire
25 May 2015Limato set for Haydock weekend run
French ace Chop in line for Ascot
Pretty target for Tamadhor
Prolific Robin in foal
Ramone delights Farrell
Moore set for Shamal ride
O'Brien still has Derby puzzle
Air Force has lift-off on debut
Guineas glory for Pleascach
More Curragh Gold for Kazeem
Curvy holds off Canaletto
Super Solow takes Longchamp prize
Varian pleased by Belardo effort
Dirty scope blamed for Byron run
Ascot test for Time
24 May 2015Full steam ahead for Mast return
Mustajeeb sprints to it
Pearl's a sprint jewel for Barron
Tate springs Listed surprise
First Ascot chance for Crisford
Glen best miler we've had - O'Brien
Exciting options for Simcock ace
Muta grabs Bowl with late charge
No decision on replacement - McCoy
Harrington bids for Guineas glory
23 May 2015Mustajeeb sprints to it
Big-race options for Corsican team
Gagarin in orbit for Gallinule
Tudhope back for Force mount
Luck be a Lady for Burke
Gleneagles tees off at Curragh
Stars dazzles at Goodwood
Dettori receives golden ticket
Tudhope suffers Haydock blow
Gatsby in great form for Gold run
O'Brien banking on Found progress
Sole seeking home success
Remote makes Festival return
Force back for Temple test