State Man Completes 2024 Champion Hurdle Treble

May 4, 2024

Owner Marie Donnelly leads State Man back to the winner’s circle. (Breandán Ó hUallacháin photo)

By Breandán Ó hUallacháin

State Man completed the 2024 Champion Hurdle treble at the Irish National Hunt Festival at Punchestown, County Kildare, Ireland, on Friday, as he won the Boodles Champion Hurdle.

In February, the Willie Mullins-trained son of Doctor Dino won the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, and then the following month took the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

A sign of the seven-year-old French-bred’s stature is seen in the fact that only three opponents contested the Boodles Champion Hurdle at Punchestown on Friday: his stable companion Sir Gerhard, Irish Point from the Gordon Elliott barn, and the Laura Fowler-handled Colonel Mustard (33/1).

The statistics were certainly strongly in favour of the Joe and Marie Donnell-owned State Man coming into this race. Eighteen of the previous 24 winners of the race had previously won over the racetrack, 10 of the last 12 winners of the Grade 1 contest were rated 164 or higher; the most recent six winners of the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle to have contested this race had all won, while State Man’s conditioner Willie Mullins had won eight of the last 13 renewals of this two-mile championship.

Irish Point (7/2), runner-up to State Man (2/7 favourite) at Cheltenham in March, took the field along at a strong pace, with jockey Jack Kennedy hoping his mount’s stamina would  dent the finishing speed of the race favourite. 

Paul Townend and State Man sat in second throughout, with Sir Gerhard and jockey Danny Mullins third, and the race outsider Colonel Mustard, with J.J. Slevin riding, last of the four-runner field.

The champion jockey Paul Townend made his move on State Man as they approached the home straight, as Jack Kennedy became animated on the second favourite, Irish Point. 

State Man seized the lead approaching the final flight of hurdles, with the Robcour-owned grey Irish Point having nothing more to give. 

The seven-year-old chestnut State Man stayed on well and was never in any danger of defeat as the Gordon Elliott-trained Irish Point stayed on one paced, two lengths behind the winner.

Colonel Mustard and jockey J.J. Slevin got the upper hand on Sir Gerhard and Danny Mullins for third spot, defeating the son of Jeremy by two lengths.

The County Cork-born winning rider Paul Townend, speaking to the media post-race, said:

“He’s a star, isn’t he? I love riding him because he’s so simple. I still couldn’t wait long enough on him. That’s the feel he gives you. He actually has plenty in there, I think. He spotted the cameraman at the line as well and had a look at him and smiled for the picture.

“It’s so simple to ride this lad. That’s why I’ve probably such a soft spot for him because you can leave the weigh room, get to the start, make it up as you go along, and he’ll get you out of trouble.

“He isn’t flashy. He does what he has to do and that’s probably why he keeps winning, he keeps a little bit in the locker but riding him, you’re confident on him and you just have to keep him up to his work. He’s just a very good horse.”

Boodles Champion Hurdle winner State Man with his successful connections. (Breandán Ó hUallacháin photo)
Boodles Champion Hurdle winner State Man with his successful connections. (Breandán Ó hUallacháin photo)

Commenting on the 10th Grade 1 success of State Man’s career, his delighted handler Willie Mullins offered:

“Paul just rode him like he was the best horse and that was a bit tough on Paul because a few of ours have run below par today. We were wondering if this fellow ran below par, Jack [Kennedy, rider of Irish Point] might just beat us but Paul just had the confidence to ride him like the best horse, got upside him, then just drove down to the last, got his jump to the last and ran away.

“He’s what you want. He’s tough. He appears every day you want to run him. That means an awful lot in a racehorse.”

The winning connections of State Man receive their Boodles Champion Hurdle prizes. (Breandán Ó hUallacháin photo)
The winning connections of State Man receive their Boodles Champion Hurdle prizes. (Breandán Ó hUallacháin photo)

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