Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)

THE suspicion that it was just a matter of time before State Man made the breakthrough at the top level was borne out in this near two-and-a-half-mile affair as he bested some quality rivals in the style of a horse who could go a very long way in open company next season.

After overcoming notable inexperience to win the County Hurdle at Cheltenham, State Man was faced with another interesting test as he took on a field that included the very promising Flame Bearer and the Grade 1 regular Three Stripe Life. He passed this test with flying colours and, of this year’s crop of novice hurdlers, he looks one of the foremost contenders to hold his own against seasoned, championship standard rivals next season.

Over the course of this race Paul Townend exuded considerable confidence in his mount as he was quite content to bide his time at the rear and even with two to jump he still had three formidable rivals in front of him. At this stage Kilcruit was trying to fend off Flame Bearer and Three Stripe Life but in behind the Marie Donnelly-owned State Man looked to have them all covered.

When Townend asked State Man to quicken the response was impressive as the five-year-old quicky had the measure of Three Stripe Life and a good jump at the last made sure of victory. At the line State Man had seven lengths to spare over Flame Bearer with Three Stripe Life finishing a further half length away in third.

“He could be a Champion Hurdle horse and that’s the route I’d say we will go down next season,” declared Willie Mullins. “This horse is still novicey but he’s improving all the time. I was perhaps a little worried watching the race when he dropped back at the fourth last but Paul came in and said he wasn’t worried at any stage and was just concentrating on keeping him settled. From the first time we worked him we felt he could be very good.”

Paul Townend also paid tribute to his mount’s prowess: “He’s a smashing horse and the experience of the County Hurdle stood to him. He stays and he has plenty of boot which is the sign of a good one. Possibly he could be a Champion Hurdle contender. He has pace and he stays and he’d have no problem jumping a fence so he has lots of options”.