Willie Mullins reclaimed his Morgiana Hurdle throne as a classy display from Sharjah earned glory at Punchestown, writes Paul Martin.
The King of Closutton saw his streak of nine straight winners broken last year but a fine ride by son Patrick on the superstar eight-year-old was enough to claim the spoils in style this time around.
Sharjah was level with Zanahiyr for the majority of the contest, with Mullins’ second contender Echoes In Rain held back a couple of lengths.
The frontrunners were neck-and-neck heading over the last but Sharjah carried all the momentum and powered clear of his rival up the home straight to repeat his 2018 triumph and join an illustrious list of multiple Morgiana Hurdle winners.
This was Mullins’ 11th win in the race overall, extending his record, while Sharjah’s odds have now been halved for March’s Champion Hurdle.
“He runs his race every day and he has a little bit of class,” Willie Mullins told Racing TV.
“He’s a wonderful servant to have around the place. I’d
imagine he’ll go back to Leopardstown at Christmas, all being well.
“It was very tactical, but the way it played out played into
Just three runners lined up for the Sunday feature at Punchestown, with the morning’s two non-runners including reigning champion Abacadabras due to stiffness.
Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso followed after being injured in transit and the favourite tag moved between the Mullins pair in the run-up to the off.
But Echoes In Rain was never in contention under Sean O’Keeffe and could only watch as the two geldings battled it out in front of her.
Zanahiyr had youth on his side but the four-year-old, who had Davy Russell on board, had no answer when Sharjah stepped on the accelerator over the last.
“The race played out ideal for me," said the winning jockey.
“He jumped great, he was out-jumping Davy (Russell on
Zanahiyr) and I kept pulling him back. It turned into a sprint which suited
“I could have ridden Echoes In Rain today, but I wanted to
stay loyal to Sharjah and luckily it’s paid off.
“He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He’s like Santa – I
can’t wait for Christmas now!”
Earlier in the day, Albert Bartlett Novices’ Chase winner Vanillier recorded his first win over fences by romping home in the Grade 2 Liam & Valerie Brennan Florida Pearl Novice Chase.
Just two of the four starters finished and Gavin Cromwell’s six-year-old finished comfortably clear of Fancy Foundations to bank the €20,650 prize.