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Press Release 15th March 2024 Cheltenham


Friday 15th March

Willie Mullins saddled the winner of the BetMGM County Hurdle for a record extending seventh time when Absurde benefited from a superbly timed Paul Townend ride to get up on the run in and score by a length.

Willie Mullins said: “I’m just happy to win that for the H O S Syndicate. Andrew Heffernan is the only one here, as the others didn’t travel.

“What a rider that man is. There can’t be one bit of warm blood in his veins - it’s all cold I’d say. To ride it the way he rode it - to me that’s the ride of the week. I said that to Paul and he said ‘so far!’ but it’ll be hard to beat that I think. Then he questioned me and said he was wondering what we guys did in Australia (in the Melbourne Cup). How he got beat there I don’t know, but we’d like to go back. I’m not sure of the conditions there but he ran so well. He had to win the Ebor to qualify last year, and I don’t know how long that qualification lasts for, so it might be tough, but we might get a special dispensation. We’ll apply anyway!

“It was Paul’s idea to be that far back, but if you remember when he won it on Arctic Fire it was a similar story. If you go back and look at County Hurdles for Paul he’s done it before, and they tend to come from the back in this race.

“Absurde will mix it on the Flat and over hurdles, and to win here on this ground was a huge bonus. He’s a hell of a horse for a syndicate to have. He can pitch up at any of the festivals, Flat or jumping.”

Paul Townend told ITV Racing: “I got a lot of satisfaction out of that one to tell you the truth! What a horse to have travelled the world and come back and put in a performance like that on that ground.

“We hacked, but I suppose that probably got them racing early enough because everyone was aware that they set off going so slow and wanted to get in a position. I thought I had the pace of them all on his Flat form and if he handled the ground, he had a good chance. But the ground was a big worry.”

Asked if it was nice to ride one with less pressure, compared to the big short-priced favourites he is on this week, he said: “It was. I was able to go out and take a chance. It's nice to be able to do that from time to time."

Andrew Heffernan, a member: of H O S Syndicate which owns Absurde, told ITV Racing “Everyone else is at home at the moment, I would say they are delighted – that was some run from Absurde. We didn’t know if he had a chance with the ground.”

He explained that the syndicate was set up by his granny for the grandchildren, and there are about 12 of them in it.

He added: “I’m just delighted. He was sitting there at the back. If the ground didn’t suit him, I didn’t know if he would stay on. Paul sent him and he just did not stop. He’s the best horse in the world, honestly the best horse in the world. I’m just delighted with how it has gone.”

Dan Skelton, trainer of runner-up L''eau Du Sud, said: “I did think, 10, 15 strides out [from the last] that it was on. We didn’t jump the last great, but it didn’t cost us - Absurde was cantering all over us. He was always going to catch us. If we’d have jumped the last, Townend would have looked even cleverer than he did, which is a big statement, because he looked very clever coming from last on that one!

“It’s been magic - a remarkable week, and I’m very, very proud of horses, owners, staff and everyone.”

Harry Skelton, rider of runner-up L''eau Du Sud, said: “We're delighted with our horse. Sometimes there’s one better on the day, and that was that.”

Asked about the slow pace of the race, he nodded and said: “We were lined up in the start, in the County Hurdle, and no one wanted to make the running, which is very peculiar.

“We’re excited about this horse going chasing. The horse deserves to get one, and he’s quite lightly raced, so we might think about Aintree or something like that.”

2.40pm BetMGM County Hurdle (Premier Handicap) 2m 1f

1 Absurde 12-1

2 L''eau Du Sud 7-2 Fav

3 Pied Piper 14-1

4 Magical Zoe 8-1

17 ran

Distances: Distances: 1, 3¼, nse

Time: 4m 25.10s

33rd winner at The Festival for jockey Mark Walsh

102nd winner at The Festival for trainer Willie Mullins


Ireland 14

Great Britain 8


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