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Last Updated: 16/11/08 4:51pm
Hardy Eustace - popular winner.
Hardy Eustace defied his veteran status as he claimed yet more Grade One glory with a gutsy win in the Maplewood Developments Hurdle at Punchestown.
Dessie Hughes' charge won back-to-back Champion Hurdles at Cheltenham in 2004 and 2005 but now rising 12 years of age, many thought days like this were behind him.
A disappointing 12th of 17 in the World Hurdle at the Festival in March, Hardy Eustace was sent off an unconsidered 14-1 chance as he made his seasonal bow in the two-mile race, formerly known as the Morgiana Hurdle.
With Paddy Flood aboard for the first time, Hardy Eustace quickly took up his customary position at the head of affairs, setting a reasonable pace before Sizing Europe swept through over three furlongs out.
Andrew McNamara looked confident on Henry de Bromhead's runner, who was also making his reappearance, but he looked to run out of petrol in the straight with Hardy Eustace battling back gamely to prevail by two and a half lengths at the line.
Jered was sent off the 4-5 favourite but he was no match for his older rival and could finish only third.
Hughes said: "Obviously we are very happy with that and the horse is as good as ever.
"He finished sore and lame after the World Hurdle in March and probably needed that race.
"Paddy said he blew up before the turn for home so he should improve for the run.
"We will probably go for the Hatton's Grace (at Fairyhouse on November 30) next."
Hardy Eustace is a 25-1 chance with totesport for the Champion Hurdle in March but the firm cut him from 40-1 to 20s for the World Hurdle following his victory.
Sizing Europe remains an 8-1 chance for the Champion with Jered pushed out to 12s from 8s.
Unfortunately Flood was given a two-day ban by the stewards for using his whip with excessive frequency.