L'Unique charges to Grade 1 victory in the Grand National meeting openerPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
King's L'Unique sees off the boys in 4-Y-O Hurdle
Report: Aintree, Thursday
Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m½f, 4yo
ALAN KING registered his fourth victory in this contest since 2007 when highly regarded filly L'Unique took the first race of Aintree's Grand National meeting under Wayne Hutchinson.
The 10-1 winner, advised by Pricewise in Thursday's Racing Post, beat 20-1 outsider Runswick Royal and the Paul Nicholls-trained Irish Saint (3-1).
L'Unique, who was adding another top-level success to King's record following victories in this race for Grumeti (2012), Walkon (2009) and Katchit (2007), was cut to 7-1 (from 14) with Paddy Power for the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle at next year's Cheltenham Festival.
The only filly in the ten-runner field, L'Unique was settled in midfield throughout behind Adonis Hurdle winner Irish Saint, who dictated the pace under Ruby Walsh.
5-2 favourite Rolling Star, who finished sixth in the Triumph Hurdle last time, was settled slightly further back and travelled up sweetly to dispute the lead rounding the turn for home.
Fred Winter hero Flaxen Flare also caught the eye going well on the outside, but none of them could live with L'Unique when she quickened up.
Runswick Royal, trained by Ann Hamilton, weaved his way through under Wilson Renwick and made rapid late headway, but the winner had flown and L'Unique kept on strongly to score under her delighted jockey.
King said: "That's wonderful. Anywhere in the first four I'd have been happy. Missing Cheltenham helped I think. She was always in a lovely position and jumped well and she's very, very progressive.
"That's her for the season. We resisted the temptation to enter her at Punchestown yesterday and I'm glad we did. She'll stick to hurdles especially with all the mares' races now."