Sir Gerhard makes perfect start to hurdling career

Champion Bumper winner Sir Gerhard made a seamless transition to hurdling with a straightforward victory in the Thorntons Recycling Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Victorious at the Cheltenham Festival on his first start for Willie Mullins having been with Gordon Elliott, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding met with the first defeat of his career at the Punchestown Festival.

Not seen since, he was sent off a 2-9 favourite to get his new career off to a winning start and Paul Townend kept things simple, heading straight to an early lead.

He jumped well in the main, and while he got in a little tight to the final flight it did not slow him down and he quickened under minimum pressure to win by eight lengths from Highland Charge.

Betfair were impressed and cut the winner to 9-2 from 8-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, meaning the Nicky Henderson duo of Jonbon and Constitution Hill now have a challenge at the top of the market.

“He’s a very good jumper so I’m very happy to see him come out and do that,” said Mullins.

“I’d like to climb the ladder if I could, but he might just have to go into a graded race next – maybe at the Dublin Racing Festival, something like that. But I think he’s up to it.”

Fil Dor cemented his position at the head of the betting for the JCB Triumph Hurdle with a stylish display in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle.

The 4-9 market leader having won his first two starts over timber in fine style, Elliott’s youngster faced his toughest task to date as he was meeting Noel Meade’s Lunar Power on 3lb worse terms than when they had met at Down Royal, when there was only a length and a quarter between them.

Lunar Power set out to make all under Sean Flanagan, but Davy Russell never let him get far from his sights on the favourite.

As they turned into the straight the market principals began to pull clear of the rest and both appeared to be travelling as well as each other – but approaching the last Fil Dor began to exert his authority and despite landing on all fours pulled seven lengths clear.

“He’s a nice horse, he’s so relaxed and we’re lucky to have him,” said Elliott.

“The Dublin Racing Festival would be the obvious place to go now, either there for the four-year-old race or straight to the Triumph. We’ll see how he is and make a plan.

“We were tempted by Chepstow (Grade One Finale Hurdle) and I suppose it was the prize-money which kept us here.”

Russell said: “We were mad about him from day one as a specimen, but he never really excited us in his work. He keeps it all for the racecourse.

“He’s like riding a point-to-pointer down to a hurdle, he’s so good to jump.

“He loves soft ground, but showed the last day he can handle it a bit better. He’s very versatile.”

Mullins also won the closing bumper with Facile Vega, a son of the brilliant Quevega and the 10-11 favourite under Patrick Mullins.

“He was very good. He relaxed brilliantly. He covered huge ground and was a quicker horse than I thought he’d be, even,” said his rider.

“He’s his mother’s son. He was always doing a half-speed. I was worried I was going too slow, but obviously not.”

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