The aptly-named Zarak The Brave had to dig deep to fend off Jesse Evans to land the valuable Guinness Galway Hurdle.
A smart juvenile hurdler last season, some thought he may lack the required experience for such a test but he found plenty for pressure to deny last year’s runner-up, meaning Noel Meade’s Jesse Evans has now been placed in the race three times.
Mighty Tom had taken up the running from Cash Back three out and was still in with a chance when joined at the last.
However, Willie Mullins’ Zarak The Brave took it up under Paul Townend and could not have shown more determination in first fending off My Mate Mozzie, then the late thrust of Sean Flanagan’s mount.
Zarak The Brave (9-2) held on to score by a head from Jesse Evans, with My Mate Mozzie three-quarters of a length further back in third.
It was Mullins’ fifth win in the race since 2016 and his third in the last four years.
“Only one four-year-old that I’m aware of (Perugino Diamond in 2000) has won the race before and it says something about how tough the horse is. Paul was fantastic on him and had him out in the right position the whole way around,” said Mullins.
“There was no point in winning another small winners’ race with him so you look at iconic races like this when you have horses like this.
“I wasn’t too far away from Noel Meade in the stand and thought my horse was beaten so it is tough on Noel whose horse was second last year and fourth in 2021.
“Paul thought he was beaten but when he changed his whip and hit him one little smack the horse got down and galloped again. That just shows how brave he is.
“He looked a really decent horse when he won his maiden hurdle but got colic last winter and I had to put him by for the season. But it is all worthwhile now and he is obviously a graded horse. His previous form with Lossiemouth looks huge now.”
He added: “We are delighted today came off and his owners are here today – Isaac (Souede) came from Alaska to be here and Simon (Munir) came from the south of France.
“He is a lightly-race four year old and the Morgiana Hurdle is a possibility now along with the Fishery Lane Hurdle at Naas in November. There is every possibility he could be a Champion Hurdle horse and he is going along those lines.”