Sharjah swoops late for fourth Matheson Hurdle verdict

Sharjah finished with a flourish to secure a historic fourth successive victory in the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Only Istabraq and Hurricane Fly had previously won the Grade One contest on four occasions – and even that legendary pair did not manage to win four on the spin.

The Willie Mullins-trained Sharjah was not even favourite when triumphing in 2018, 2019 and 2020 – but off the back of winning his second Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, the eight-year-old was the 5-6 market leader on his return to Foxrock.

Ridden with plenty confidence by the trainer’s son Patrick, Sharjah began to make inroads racing down the back straight, but was still only fourth rounding the turn for home.

He briefly had to be cajoled into contention, but soon came back on the bridle before throwing down his challenge to Zanahiyr after the dolled off final flight.

Zanahiyr refused to go down without a fight, but Sharjah eventually won the argument by a neck.

Willie Mullins said: “That was not good for the heart!

“Patrick said he wasn’t as sharp as other years and then with the last hurdle missing, he got pushed out onto yesterday’s ground and that just blunted his speed in the last furlong.

“He managed to do it anyhow and it was a terrific race. He definitely wasn’t as sharp as other years, but when you win a race four years running, you can’t expect a horse to be improving.

Sharjah battles Zanahiyr at Leopardstown
Sharjah battles Zanahiyr at Leopardstown (Donall Farmer/PA)

“He’s been a spectacular horse – fantastic for Patrick and Rich and Susannah (Ricci, owners). I think Rich likes Patrick riding him and he’s a special horse for that partnership.”

In each of the past two seasons Sharjah has gone on to disappoint in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in early February before bouncing back to finish second in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

On whether he could miss the Irish Champion Hurdle this time around, Mullins added: “We might do that and go straight to Cheltenham, but I’ll have a word with Rich and Susannah and see.

“It might be the thing to do as it doesn’t seem to work for him.”

Coral cut Sharjah to 8-1 from 10-1 to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham at the fourth attempt, having been brought down in 2019 prior to chasing home Epatante in 2020 and Honeysuckle last season.

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