‘Best of the rest’ State Man shines in Champion Hurdle at Punchestown

State Man, with Paul Townend up, jumps the first on their way to winning the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle during day four of the Punchestown Festival. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Michael Verney

He may have been no match for the brilliant Constitution Hill at Cheltenham but State Man (2/5 favourite) proved once again that he is “best of the rest” to run out an easy winner of the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at Punchestown yesterday.

Already a winner of the Morgiana, Matheson and Irish Champion Hurdle this season, Paul Townend kept things simple from the front on Willie Mullins’ six-year-old and he never saw another rival en route to a three-length victory.

Another tilt at the Champion Hurdle is in the pipeline with Mullins expecting further improvement.

“Constitution Hill is there but this guy is the best of the rest. Hopefully he can keep on improving. Paul was keen to make the running and kept it simple. He may be more forceful in future, that’ll be next year’s problem,” Mullins beamed.

“We’ll freshen him up now and get him back to do the same things next season, I hope. I can’t really see him going over fences, I’d say he’ll be a hurdle horse. I don’t know whether I need to go out in trip with him.”

Stablemate Vauban chased him home in second and is now set for a summer on the Flat with Royal Ascot in his sights, while Mullins may also have another dangerous dart to throw at the 2024 Champion Hurdle despite not being impressed by the victory of Impaire Et Passe (1/3 favourite) in the Champion Novice Hurdle.

It was far from plain sailing for the brilliant Ballymore winner, which did not travel with his usual verve, but the five-year-old kept his unbeaten season in tact when coming home best to eventually score comprehensively under Townend.

“He didn’t impress me during the race, he was a bit lethargic when Paul pulled him out. Things didn’t happen like we expected,” Mullins said.

“Of all the horses coming to Punchestown after Cheltenham, I thought he was on fire. I thought he’d give a way better performance but the hill at Cheltenham may have brought out the best in him.”

Mullins and Townend completed a treble with the classy Kilcruit (11/4 favourite) enjoying the drop in class to take the EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase in a 15-length romp.

Impervious (8/11 favourite) has helped to put Colm Murphy back on the map in his second coming as a trainer and his mighty mare finished an outstanding season in a fashion which she’s become accustomed to.

Brian Hayes’ mount turned the Grade Two Mares Chase into a procession with a faultless performance seeing her coast home by 11 lengths – to make it five from five over fences – and she looks primed to be a Grade One regular next season.

“She’s been an absolute revelation and she has loads of options, we can dream away for the summer. She can go up or down in trip, it doesn’t matter to her. She’s just a proper one,” the Wexford trainer said.

“Without an exaggeration, she would go through a wall for you. You don’t come across too many of them too often but when you do they are pretty special and she seems to be one of those. It’s nice to have her and it’s nice pressure to have.”

John Carr landed the opening Hunters Chase when Fr Gilligansvoyge landed a 25/1 shock in the hands of Pat Taaffe while it was also a memorable day for Sean Doyle.

Monbeg Park (15/8) lost out in the stewards’ room at Fairyhouse but he made no mistake this time under the red-hot JJ Slevin to take the novice hurdle while Emmet Mullins was another to continue winning ways.

Youngster Its On The Line (6/1) proved best in the Champion Hunters Chase under Derek O’Connor while the closing bumper went the way of Charles Byrnes with Walk Away Harry (11/1) scoring for Ray Barron.

After a tasty Thursday for Michael Verney with Dinoblue (11/4), El Fabiolo (1/4) and Ballyburn (10/11) winning, the Irish Independent racing tipster continued his good form with Kilcruit (11/4), Impervious (8/11), State Man (2/5) and Impaire Et Passe (1/3) all obliging yesterday.