SHARJAH turned over stablemate and favourite Faugheen to cause a minor surprise in the Grade 1 Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.
With the morning withdrawal of Supasundae and the late defection of Samcro, former champion hurdler Faugheen appeared to face a straightforward task.
Willie Mullins and the Riccis land the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle - but with the 'wrong' one! "The silence is defeaning," calls Jerry Hannon as Galway Hurdle winner Sharjah shocks stablemate Faugheen in the Grade 1 highlight at @punchestownrace: pic.twitter.com/Lh2KtSwikr— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) November 18, 2018
Ruby Walsh set out to make all on 2/5 shot Faugheen, who was last seen winning over three miles at Punchestown and was dropping back to two this time.
Rachael Blackmore kept him honest on Tombstone, the only one of the four eventual runners not trained by Willie Mullins, but he dropped away before the turn into the straight.
Just when Faugheen looked set to go clear though, Sharjah, a Galway Hurdle winner but beaten behind Bedrock and Samcro at Down Royal, cruised past him. Paul Townend rode the 7-2 shot out to win by seven and a half lengths.
Townend said: “That was pretty straightforward for a Grade 1. I travelled well the whole way, got the feeling Ruby was in a bit of trouble when I was still doing it well and I had fitness on my side.
“The ease of the win surprised me a bit, but he promised to win a big one a few times last season. I wouldn’t write Faugheen off.”