The Shunter swoops for Greatwood glory

The Shunter flew up the Cheltenham hill to run out an impressive winner of the Unibet Greatwood Hurdle.

Racing from the bottom of the handicap, he relished the testing conditions as he quickened past top weight Ballyandy after the last.

Ridden confidently by Robbie Power, partnering his fourth winner of the Open meeting, it was a notable success for trainer Emmett Mullins.

As ever there were plenty in with a chance approaching the last, but Ballyandy still held sway despite his welter burden, and he did well to hold off the favourite Tegerek for second. Hunters Call was fourth.

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The Shunter (13-2) only had a maiden hurdle win to his name over the smaller obstacles previously, but did triumph over fences at Punchestown in September.

Power said: “I’d say it’s the lightest I’ve done for 10 years. Emmet fancied him and the rain came. He is more of a two-and-a-half miler, but the rain came and it brought his stamina into it today.

“I got badly outpaced down the hill and I couldn’t go with them – I had to sit and suffer. He winged the second last and I knew when I gave him a squeeze at the back of the second last, I had a big chance.

“I needed a good jump at the last, but he has delivered for me. Once I met the rising ground, he galloped all the way up the hill. Having a light weight on that sort of ground makes a huge difference as well.”

Power admitted he had a tough few days to make the minimum weight.

He added: “I’ve not eaten a whole pile. I’ve eaten a bit of chicken, but very little since Friday morning. I had breakfast Friday morning and a few bits of chicken and All-Bran for breakfast in the mornings, that’s all.

“I’ve not had dinner the last two nights. I don’t like sweating as I’d rather starve than sweat. I did a small sweat this morning. I’m well hydrated as I’ve been drinking plenty of fluids.

“The eating doesn’t bother me as it’s something I’ve grown up with. I’ve probably smoked more in the last couple of days than I ever have before.

“Emmet has done a fantastic job with him. He was impressive over hurdles at Downpatrick and very impressive in a beginners’ chase at Punchestown. Emmet thought coming here off 10st, it was a good chance for him and when the heavens opened, it really played to his strengths.”

The Shunter (right) and Ballyandy battled all the way home
The Shunter (right) and Ballyandy battled all the way home (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Sam Twiston-Davies, rider of runner-up Ballyandy said:  “Ballyandy is a fantastic servant for the yard and he ran really well.”

Kevin Brogan, rider of the third-placed Tegerek, said: “Tegerek ran well. He was being a bit of a boyo before the race which didn’t really help.

“I thought turning in he was going very well, but it’s very hard work in that ground out there – we’re very happy with him.

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