Patrick and Willie Mullins combine to claim Galway Hurdle as Sharjah pulls away in three-length win
Sharjah defied top-weight to win the Guinness Galway Hurdle for the father and son team of Willie and Patrick Mullins.
Making his handicap debut under the welter burden of 11st 7lb, the Rich Ricci-owned five-year-old travelled supremely well into contention, before jumping alongside stablemate Blazer at the final flight.
Quickening up well, he kept up the gallop to score by three lengths at 12-1.
At one stage Dr Richard Newland's British raider Leoncavallo hit the front surrounded by a plethora of JP McManus-owned runners, but one by one they dropped away, with the exception of Blazer.
Blazer stuck to his task gamely to claim second, best of the nine McManus representatives, with Leoncavallo third and another British-trained runner, Bedrock, in fourth for Iain Jardine.
Market leaders Max Dynamite and Davids Charm never threatened to get involved, with the latter away very slowly.
Sharjah's career had stalled since he had a Grade One at his mercy at Christmas, only to fall at the final flight.
For champion amateur Mullins, rider of several Grade One winners, this victory will no doubt be one of the sweetest, while for his father it was a second win in two years after Clondaw Warrior in 2016.
The rider said: "It's absolutely magic. It was just one of those races where everything happened as it should.
"We got a great break, he jumped great, travelled great, we got a clear run and all I'm thinking is 'just don't get there too soon' and don't deck him at the last like Leopardstown at Christmas.
"It's just taken him a while to get over his fall and hopefully that makes up for him having it. It's great to make it up to Mr Ricci."
He added: "The Galway Hurdle is an iconic race, this is right up there and I'll enjoy it as much as I can."
Willie Mullins said: "It was extraordinary - I couldn't believe it - he got a brilliant start, but I thought it was going to be tough for a top-weight to make all.
"The weights were compressed - the Galway Hurdle is so valuable nowadays - and I thought our bottom-weight Max Dynamite had such a good chance, but he didn't jump - Ruby (Walsh) said he missed the first and once again he fluffed his jumping lines.
"Patrick was fantastic. I thought he was gone halfway up the back. Then I thought Blazer had it won going to the last.
"Mark (Walsh) said he just landed on all fours and Patrick just got a run and flew. He wasn't waiting around.
"I took my eyes off Sharjah when I thought he was beaten halfway up the back and then going to the second-last I thought Blazer and maybe Paul (Townend) was going to come into it on Good Thyne Tara.
"I didn't realise Patrick was going so well, as I was watching the other two. Coming to the last then I said Blazer will win and Patrick will be second.
"Next thing 'bang', he just got the jump - and it's a little bit of compensation for missing the Grade One when he fell at the last in front at Leopardstown.
"I'm not sure if it's compensation for Patrick for not winning the amateur race here, but he'll just have to put up with that.
"We'd wondered whether we'd let Sharjah off for the summer and in fact my plan was to go Flat racing with him. However, I wasn't happy with his mark and I abandoned that plan, which has worked out nicely now."
He added of his son: "Patrick is a different league to me as an amateur. For his size and weight, it's a serious commitment.
"Every morning he wakes up he's probably 11st 7lb or 11st 8lb and that's when he's minding himself.
"If he goes away for a weekend or on holiday he comes back heavier. I wouldn't live on what he survives on for a day.
"To have such role models as Tony McCoy and Ruby Walsh for the younger generation of jockeys, I see a huge difference - I mean our role models were fellas that didn't go down that line!
"It shows the importance of good role models. Tony McCoy and Ruby Walsh are two guys that all the younger lads look up to and the younger generation are much more professional now. The sport is much better for it.
"I asked Patrick if he wanted to ride in the Galway Hurdle. He said the only one I can ride is Sharjah (at the weights) so I said right, that's done.
"As regards Sharjah now, I don't know whether it'll be the Flat or the Champion Hurdle route."