Double for Walsh and Mullins as Zaidpour wins
Report: Fairyhouse, Sunday
Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f, 4yo+
ZAIDPOUR proved to be a cut above his rivals as he quickened away from the others on the run-in to complete a double for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh.
The pair had suffered an unexpected reversal when Champagne Fever tasted defeat in the Royal Bond Hurdle earlier in the day but they followed up the success of Arvika Ligeonniere in the Drinmore Novice Chase as the well-backed Zaidpour carried the colours of Rich Ricci to a deserved victory.
Voler La Vedette had been clear favourite earlier in the day for the race she won last year but with the Mullins and Walsh juggernaut showing few signs of stopping, punters looked to side with the top team having been unconvinced by Voler La Vedette's most recent run when she was beaten at odds of 1-7.
That proved to be the right move as Zaidpour eventually beat Monksland by two and a half lengths with Voler La Vedette only third despite receiving 7lb from all her rivals.
This latest eclipse resulted in the odds of Big Buck's landing a fifth successive Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March contracting with the last evens disappearing. Paddy Power now offer 4-5.
That race could now be in the mix for Zaidpour who was given a quote of 12-1 from the sponsors with Mullins saying he intends to step the horse up in trip.
Rich Ricci, Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins celebrate Zaidpour's winPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
"He is not good enough to win the Champion Hurdle although he is good enough to run in one," said the winning trainer, "and with Cheltenham in mind I would imagine the World Hurdle will be the most obvious race.
"I doubt he will take on Hurricane Fly next but he will be entered in all those races."
Like Mullins, Ricci was not committing to any definite target. "I am delighted for the horse he deserves that. He is a quality horse."
When asked about the possibility of tackling Big Buck's at Cheltenham he added: "He needs soft ground. It would need to be soft for him to run in that race but he is a good horse."
So Young led the field with Zaidpour and Voler La Vedette ridden patiently in behind. When last year's winner moved out wide and was shuffled in to contention turning for home it looked like the joint-favourites were set for a great tussle at the business end of the race.
Although that never panned out, quotes from trainer Colm Murphy after the race seemed to suggest that Voler La Vedette did well to finish as close as she did.
"Andrew [Lynch] reported that she made a noise around the second last and we will have that checked out," he said.