State Man beats Irish Point to win the Champion Hurdle at the 2024 Cheltenham Festival… as Zarak the Brave round-ups the top three after thrilling race

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State Man justified short-priced favouritism to take the Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival

Ridden by Paul Townend, the Willie Mullins-trained chestnut started as the 2-5 market leader in the absence of reigning champion Constitution Hill, who had run out such a convincing winner 12 months ago.

The seven-year-old enjoyed an untroubled passage through the race on the inside rail and when he kicked for home only Gordon Elliott’s Irish Point could go with him, but it was State Man who held the upper hand to go one better than last year by a length and a quarter.

Luccia ran a fine race in third for Constitution Hill’s trainer, Nicky Henderson.

Mullins said: ‘I was amazed with the way Paul rode him, I thought he’d be much more forward, I didn’t dream that he’d only be fifth or sixth jumping the fourth-last. But he just rode him with supreme confidence.

State Man and Paul Townend claimed victory in the Unibet Champion Hurdle on Tuesday

State Man and Paul Townend claimed victory in the Unibet Champion Hurdle on Tuesday

‘I thought he’d make more use of his stamina, but Paul seemed to ride him for speed today and he clearly felt there was enough in the ground to take it out of the horses in front of him.

‘But when jockeys are riding with confidence, they can do things like that and I feel that’s the way he’s been riding all season. He’s a fantastic jockey.’

Asked if his charge is truly suited by Cheltenham and whether Constitution Hill would have been a big challenger, Mullins added: ‘He’s probably a better horse around Leopardstown, but he’s a Champion Hurdle winner. You’ve got to turn up to win a Champion Hurdle – we turned up.’

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