Our Conor romps to victory in Triumph Hurdle trial at Leopardstown
Our Conor put himself firmly in the Triumph Hurdle picture with a stylish win in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle.
Last Updated: 09/02/13 2:20pm
The Dessie Hughes-trained gelding was not hard pressed in seeing off the highly-touted Diakali and bookmakers were quick to react in making him favourite or close second-best for the big Cheltenham prize.
Paul Townend set out to make the running on Willie Mullins' first-string, sent off the 7/4 favourite, but his jumping was never all that fluent on his third run over timber.
Although he was still in front coming to three out, Townend had him under pressure and Bryan Cooper was still lobbing along on Our Conor, who had impressed with the manner of his hurdling.
Cooper brought the 10/3 winner alongside rounding the home turn and soon put the race to bed, taking a long look back at some floundering rivals.
He produced one more precise leap at the last, where Diakili was again not fluent, and only had to be pushed out to score with plenty in hand.
British raider Ruacana, also unbeaten going into the race, finished third for the John Ferguson-Denis O'Regan combination ahead of the disappointing Mullins second-string Blood Cotil.
Sky Bet cut the winner to 5/1 for the first race on Cheltenham's Friday card, where he is joint with Rolling Star, with other bookmakers shortening him to around the 6/1 mark.
"He missed a race at Christmas, but the ground was a lot better today. We were hoping the better ground today would be to our advantage," Hughes said.
"I was confident he would run a big race. I was happy with him today, his blood was 100%, he was working well and he was fit. I was happy with my horse but I was afraid of Willie's (Mullins) horse (Diakali). He'll go straight to the Triumph now.
"He is the real deal and is definitely stronger. I was still surprised the way he won, he hardly came off the bridle.
"He goes on any ground and real good ground will suit him well. He met a lot of his hurdles wrong today but was still quick over them and jumped two out very well. Bryan said he was off the bridle early on, but when he got to three out he latched back on to it.
"He finished his race well and it is great to see him staying so well, that's what he'll need for his next race."