STATE Man (145+) took another tentative step towards the Champion Hurdle with victory in the Grade 1 Matheson Hurdle and, although the demands of the race did not require him to match his Punchestown performance on the clock, his hurdling improved significantly.
Pace-setting She Is Electric was largely ignored by the principals although Norman Lee’s mare still went strongly enough to induce the fastest final circuit of the day over hurdles with the difference ranging from 1.7secs to Green Glory and 4.9secs to Shewearsitwell as the course configuration changed through the day due to obstacles omitted due to low sun.
However, probably of greater interest on the clock was the overall race time posted by Fascile Mode (143) which was quicker than the Champion Hurdle hopeful earlier on the card when an adjustment for no hurdles being jumped is made.
Thomas Mullins’ debutant may not be ready to win a Grade 1 immediately, however the closing race of the Christmas Festival earns the accolade of being the fastest run bumper on either side of the Irish Sea this season.
The formative stages of the finale were the quickest of the race, illustrated by pace setting Special Cadeau (139) taking the field through the final circuit quickly enough to have reached the wings of the second last hurdle in advance of State Man.
The early exertions took their toll on the three principals through the closing stages as the winner closed off his race in an adjusted figure of 45.6secs, compared to the 43.0secs it took the Mrs Joe Donnelly-owned winner to conclude his race. Lecky Watson (141) used his previous race experience to overhaul his stable companion and finish second, although he was no match for the winner who was as green as grass when first asked to close on the front runners.
However, once aware of what was required, the five-year-old made his ground swiftly and was probably value for further than the eventual winning margin.
Good Land (128) was the best of the two-and-half-mile races on overall times and won with any amount in hand.
Barry Connell’s gelding was hesitant at his hurdles in the early stages, probably remembering his early departure on his hurdles debut.
However, as he grew in confidence, his jumping improved and without being fully extended the seven-year-old eased clear of his field from the home turn to post a closing sectional of 44.5secs.
The maiden hurdle winner was 4.3secs and 5.0secs quicker than Shewearsitwell (115) and Green Glory (115+) respectively and, while the former was also slower over the final circuit, Charles Byrnes’ handicap winner covered the final circuit 1.1secs quicker.
The six-year-old only required minimal assistance from the saddle once asked to close upon entering the home straight to wear down Spirit Of Legend (114) and post a closing sectional the equal of State Man.
Given the closing sectional of the winner, the effort of Neveradullmoment (108+) is worthy of an upgrade as the J.P McManus-owned gelding made a shocking error at the third last hurdle before finishing his race off nicely.