State Man and Paul Townend win the Irish Champion Hurdle from Honeysuckle © Photo Healy Racing
State Man took another significant step forward in his career when making just about all the running to see off dual Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle in the Irish equivalent at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.
While the majority of the crowd at the Foxrock venue were no doubt hoping for a fairytale result from the Henry De Bromhead trained mare, in reality, the legendary hurdler faced a huge task taking on the improving young gelding, who is three years her junior.
Paul Townend elected to keep things simple in this five runner race, sending State Man to the front from the off, in order to take the sting out of his rivals. The partnership were never seriously tested, quickening clear off the home bend to go away from the gallant runner-up, Honeysuckle.
"He is maturing and improving all the time" said Townend. "He is a joy to have anything to do with".
"It wasn't the ideal situation(making the running), so it was a nice performance to come out and do that."
“Paul surprised me when he came into the parade ring and I asked him what he was going to do and he said he was going to make it,” said Mullins.
“He didn't see much to make it in the race so I said 'okay, do that'. It worked out, the horse is not used to being in front but he jumped well enough in front and Paul thought he was a bit idle in front as well.
“He did everything right and you couldn't ask anymore.”
When asked about the improvement in his jumping he added:- “A lot of people forget that he won the County Hurdle and you don't win that with sloppy jumping.
“In Punchestown it might have been a slow race and when it was slow he just took his time.
“When he has to be sharp he's well able to jump very quickly. He jumped like a Champion Hurdler, I thought, all the way down the back.
“Paul asked some big questions and he came up every time. I was very happy.
“It's nice to have a horse like him and fingers crossed that he stays right.”
On Vauban Mullins added:
“He finished off well and I was very pleased with how Vauban finished off his race.
“He made a mistake at the first and he was a bit giddy before the race in the parade ring and didn't like all that.
“He's still learning and he'll improve away. It might be next year before he'll be the horse we think he is.”
Additional reporting by Gary Carson
Paddy Powers go 3/1(from 7/2) State Man for the Champion Hurdle.