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State Man targets unblemished season with Boodles Champion Hurdle success

State Man targets unblemished season with Boodles Champion Hurdle success
State Man targets unblemished season with Boodles Champion Hurdle success

State Man will bid to put the seal on a faultless campaign in the Boodles Champion Hurdle at Punchestown on Friday.

The seven-year-old has been pretty much blemish free since falling on his debut for Willie Mullins two and a half years ago, with the mighty Constitution Hill the only horse to deny him victory in 12 subsequent appearances.

This season State Man has successfully defended the Morgiana Hurdle, the Matheson Hurdle and the Irish Champion Hurdle, while the disappointing absence of Constitution Hill at the Cheltenham Festival gave him a gilt-edged opportunity to claim Champion Hurdle glory in March and he duly obliged.

Faced with just three rivals, the chestnut will be long odds-on to make it back-to-back wins in the Punchestown version and the Closutton handler has nothing but admiration for a horse you can seemingly set your clock by.

“He’s in great shape and he’s just a really healthy horse,” said Mullins.

“He turns up every day and having a horse like that is wonderful for the owners as you arrive at every festival you want, you’re there on the big days and hopefully you’re good enough to win and he has been very good.

“He’s got his Champion Hurdle and he is the kind of horse you want. It’s lovely having a superstar, but sometimes a superstar can only come out one day of the year and owners have horses to have days out and to enjoy the social side of racing.”

State Man (left) beating Irish Point at Cheltenham
State Man (left) beating Irish Point at Cheltenham (Mike Egerton/PA)

State Man renews rivalry with Gordon Elliott’s Champion Hurdle runner-up Irish Point, as well as the fifth-placed Colonel Mustard from Lorna Fowler’s yard.

Fowler is realistic about the chances of her stable star, but is keen to roll the dice.

She said: “Cheltenham took a lot out of him and he needed every bit of that time since to recover. We thought of bringing him to Aintree and Ayr, but he just wouldn’t have been ready. I think he’s got the tank full again having had the time.

“We know what we’re up against, but we’ll do our best and it’s as simple as that. It’s a pleasure to have a horse run in that calibre of race and he does bring it to the table every time.

“And the other thing is, it is a horse race. There are jumps involved. I know what price we are and we’re right to be that price but anything can happen, and if you’re not in, you can’t win.”

The field is completed by Mullins’ second string Sir Gerhard, who is set to turn out just six days after finishing third in the Select Hurdle at Sandown.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “We’ve been really happy with State Man since Cheltenham. He’s obviously going to bid to follow up on last year’s victory and emulate Honeysuckle, who won the two editions before that.

“Irish Point gave us a bit of a fright in Cheltenham, so reopposing with him is going to be interesting, but we think that State Man can be better than he was in Cheltenham, although Irish Point might try different tactics. It promises to be a fascinating clash.

“Sir Gerhard didn’t have an awfully hard race when third in Sandown and there’s fantastic prize-money up for grabs.”

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