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Press Release 12th March 2024 Cheltenham


Tuesday 12th March

Willie Mullins saddled his fifth winner of the Unibet Champion Hurdle in 2024 courtesy of State Man, who went one better than 12 months’ ago.

Willie Mullins said: “It went very smoothly - Paul rode him with such confidence. I was surprised he rode him so deep in the race but he was happy that he had all the opposition that he was afraid of where he wanted them. It was a little far back if he made a mistake or anything, but he had Irish Point where he wanted him, and that was probably the main thing.

“He’s riding with such confidence and he was very confident in the  horse. It just shows that when jockeys are riding in the zone they can make other things happen that they want to happen. Talking to him after, I can see what he’s doing.

There’s no wow factor with State Man, and you don't go wow when you look at him either, but he does what it says on the tin. He’s that type of horse. It’s very hard to be wow in that ground, but he’s a good solid, sound horse and he just gives his running every time. He’s a hardy horse and a tough horse, and a few more like him wouldn’t do any harm.

“I think it’s as soft, or as heavy, as I’ve ever seen it. I haven’t seen it like this for years at Cheltenham, but he has oodles of stamina and I don’t think it worked against him.

“I don’t think Aintree is on the agenda. We’ll stick to the plan and go to Punchestown as usual.”

The trainer told ITV Racing: “I was amazed the way Paul rode him, I thought he would be much more forward. I didn’t dream that he was going to be fifth or sixth jumping the fourth last. He just rode him with supreme confidence. I never dreamt he would be that far back, I thought he would be making more use of his stamina, but Paul seemed to ride him for speed today. He probably felt there was enough in the ground that was going to take it out of the other horse in front of him at the pace they were going. But when jockeys are riding with confidence, they can do things like that and that’s the way he’s been riding all season.

“He’s a fantastic jockey. He goes out, does his own thing and that ride today was superb. I never dreamt that he would be so far back, but he had the confidence in the horse.”

Asked whether he thinks State Man produces his best at this track, Mullins replied: “Probably not, he’s probably a better horse around Leopardstown, but he’s a Champion Hurdle winner.”

Asked if he would relish a clash if Constitution Hill turned up at Punchestown, Mullins said: “You’ve got to turn to win a Champion Hurdle. We turned up.”

Winning jockey Paul Townend, enjoying his first Champion Hurdle win, said: “He’s a very simple horse to ride. On the ground, I probably could have waited a bit longer, but I didn’t doubt his stamina either. He’s an old favourite of mine and he deserves a big day like this.

“He’s a champion back home, only Constitution Hill was too good for him here last year. He deserved his day in the sun.”

On what it means to add the Champion Hurdle to his CV, Townend said: “It was the one that was kind of missing here. I suppose back in my younger days, I had a close association with Hurricane Fly, so it was a race that meant a lot to me, and I grew up watching the likes of Istabraq, so to put my name on that list is special.”

Jack Kennedy, rider of runner-up Irish Point, said; He ran a blinder and lost nothing in defeat. I was happy with the choice of race and he ran great.

Gordon Elliott, trainer of Irish Point, added: It was a brilliant run. He ran a great race and he did us proud. Jack gave him a great ride.

I think we made the right decision coming here (instead of the Stayers’ Hurdle) as we were beaten only a length and a quarter by a hardened two-miler. I don’t think the horse did anything wrong, or the jockey.

“Jack was delighted with him. He said if had another go he’d probably have kicked him on sooner, but I think myself that it would have just set it up more for the winner, who was cantering. The winner was very good, so hat’s off.

“I think we’ll go to Aintree. There’s a three-miler at Punchestown as well but if you are asking me now I’d say we’ll go to Aintree.”

Nicky Henderson, trained of third-placed Luccia, said: “If I’d had any say in the matter at all, she’d have run in the County - but  I’m  not the boss! Actually, from two months ago we said we’d give it a go, and she’s a mare, and she’s been great all the way through. She might be going to stud - I’ll try and persuade Paul [owner] to have another go, in a handicap, which is where she normally lives, in handicaps, but she’s grown up today.”

Asked about whether there is a chance that Constitution Hill might be ready to take on State Man before the end of the season, Henderson replied: “I don’t know. At least he was ridden out with the others this morning, which was nice to see. He came out with the other horses for the first time this morning, but we’ve got a long, long way to go.”


3.30pm Unibet Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 87y

1 State Man 2-5 Fav

2 Irish Point 9-2

3 Luccia 33-1

8 ran

Distances: 1¼, 2¼

Time: 4m 13.88s

30th winner at The Festival for jockey Paul Townend

96th winner at The Festival for trainer Willie Mullins

7th winner at The Festival for owner Marie Donnelly


Ireland 3

Great Britain 1


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