Too easy for State Man in Champion Hurdle at Punchestown
State Man justified odds-on favouritism with consummate ease in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at Punchestown. The Willie Mullins-trained gelding had won four Grade Ones in succession before having his colours lowered by Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last month. But without Nicky Henderson's star to contend with, Paul Townend's mount was backed as if defeat was out of the question and those who took the restrictive odds of 2/5 never had a moment's concern. Townend was happy to lob along in front with stablemate Vauban saving ground to his inside and Pied Piper on his left flank. However, State Man was asked to stretch three out, and whipping round the final turn, he took two lengths out of his rivals and had the race won approaching the last. Although he got in a little tight, the six-year-old steadied himself and drew clear to score by three lengths from Vauban. There was plenty of daylight back to the staying-on Colonel Mustard. Townend said: "He has been beating these horses all year and, thankfully, he was able to do it again today. "As I said when I made it in Leopardstown, I thought he would be better with a lead and probably a bit the same there. "He just looks to be the best of that bunch - he just ran into a superstar in Cheltenham." Mullins said: "Paul said if nothing was going on he'd make his own running and keep it simple. "He just missed the last, but Paul said with where he would have had to stand off he just let him fiddle it instead. That's what you want in a hurdler when they are too far back, to go in and fiddle it. "He's done enough for the season. We'll freshen him up now and get him back to do the same things next season, I hope. "I can't really see him going over fences, I'd say he'll be a hurdle horse. I don't know whether I need to go out in trip with him. "He's a horse that still has improvement in him." On his run at Cheltenham, the Closutton trainer said: "Constitution Hill was just brilliant so we were happy to be second and he's going to be hard to beat." When it was put to him about the change of tactics today, he added: "I'm not sure we wanted to make the running for Constitution Hill at Cheltenham. If we did that and got beaten we would have said we should have done something different. "We did what we did and I was happy. Maybe if the opportunity happens next time we might do that. He's well able to do it from the front and I think he's relaxing a lot more now which is a big help."
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