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Cheltenham

  • 13:30 Jcb Triumph Hurdle2m 1f

  • £120,000 added 4yo 18 ran
  • Winner: £
  • Going: Good to Soft, Good in places
  • Surface: Turf
    Weighed In
  • Winning time: 4m 3.80s
  • Off time: 13:32:00

Zaynar Triumphs At Cheltenham

By Martin Kelly and Tom Peacock, PA Sport.   Last Updated: 13/03/09 6:41pm

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Zaynar - wins the Triumph.

Zaynar - wins the Triumph.

Zaynar confirmed his position as the season's top juvenile with a tigerish defeat of Walkon in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Nicky Henderson's grey had been at the head of the market since defeating the same rival at Newbury in December but was now 7lb worse off for a four-length victory.

Talk of uninspiring work at home and the fitting of cheekpieces did not aid confidence in Zaynar and he was sent off 11-2 with Walkon the 4-1 favourite.

Walkon certainly justified trainer Alan King's claims he had made dramatic improvement in the interim and only succumbed by three-quarters of a length in a battle to savour up the final hill.

Ebadiyan, representing the eccentric Irish handler Oliver Brady, ensured a decent pace from the off but disaster was to strike for him when still in the lead at the penultimate flight, as he jinked out through the wing.

Nearly all the major players were in touch, with Zaynar finding himself in front, Walkon boxing away on the inside and a motionless Timmy Murphy smuggling Starluck into contention almost unnoticed.

Starluck's stamina ebbed away under pressure and by the last it was Robert Thornton and Walkon right alongside Barry Geraghty and Zaynar.

Although Walkon was not smooth at his obstacle, he was presented with every opportunity to win.

Henderson already has Punjabi and Binocular - the first and third in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday - and although Zaynar is quoted for the 2010 betting, he is likely to be looked after.

"It was a good race, they are two tough four-year-olds, they gave everything," the trainer said after being welcomed by Zaynar's owners Men In Our Position, a band of high-rollers led by bookmaker Victor Chandler.

"I just feel a bit sorry for Kingy because they've run against each other before and that is where the form for the race came from.

"We knew he'd stay but I just didn't know what was going to happen when he got tackled but he was very brave.

"Barry was very brave at the last. It was a big question to ask a baby having only his third run over hurdles - he had to get it and he got it.

"I think you can safely say that will be it for the year because Aintree wouldn't be his track. I think he'll be a really nice horse next year. I would think he'd get a bit further but he's got to grow up.

"It's a bit like Binocular - after their four-year-old season you mustn't do too much with them and I expect we will campaign him in that way."

Geraghty added: "When Oliver Brady's horse ran out at the second last he left me in front which wasn't ideal, but he was only doing enough.

"He hasn't had that much experience but he had a lot in the tank."

For King, it was yet another Festival second and the Scotsman said: "He's run a hell of a race like most of our team have this week.

"I thought we would win going to the last but to be fair, the winner picked up again as we came to him.

"I'm very pleased but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little frustrated and I see no reason whey we can't go on to Aintree."

Willie Mullins' Mourad stuck on nicely to finish just under three lengths away in third, relegating Alan Fleming's Starluck to fourth.

Mullins considered: "On the basis of that I ought to take him to Punchestown.

"He just flattened the last a bit but it didn't make any difference at all."

Fleming was delighted and is keen to return Starluck to a flat track while Brady is already onto the next challenge with Ebadiyan.

"It's just one of those things. John (Cullen) said he was going so well and had a ton of horse under him," said the Irish handler.

"He was sure he would have won. There was no running rail coming down to that hurdle and he saw the wide open space and went for it.

"We'll live for another day and we'll be back next year with him. He'll go to Punchestown next where the ground will suit him even better.

"The plan was always to go to the Queen Alexandra at Royal Ascot. I'll have my top hat and tails on and we'll hopefully be able to have tea with the Queen."

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