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Punchestown

  • 17:30 Rabobank Champion Hurdle 2m

  • (grade 1) €220,000 added 4yo+ 9 ran
  • Winner:
  • Going: Heavy (Hurdle Course: Heavy, Soft to Heavy in places)
  • Surface: Turf
    Weighed In
  • Winning time: 4m 5.40s
  • Off time: 17:31:29

Solwhit Denies Punjabi In A Thriller

By Martin Kelly, PA Sport.   Last Updated: 01/05/09 9:52pm

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Solwhit overhauls Punjabi.

Solwhit overhauls Punjabi.

Solwhit is set to bid for Champion Hurdle glory at the Cheltenham Festival next season after his gutsy victory at Punchestown.

The five-year-old secured the first Grade One prize of his career when winning the Aintree Hurdle over two and a half miles last month but showed a drop to the minimum trip to be no barrier to success in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle.

Sent off the 2-1 joint-favourite in the hands of Davy Russell, the Charles Byrnes-trained gelding travelled strongly throughout the contest and tracked the strong-travelling Sizing Europe and last year's winner Punjabi into the straight.

As Sizing Europe weakened on the run to the final obstacle it was left for Solwhit and Punjabi to fight out a barnstorming finish, with the former coming out on top by just a short-head.

The Willie Mullins-trained mare Quevega was the other joint-favourite and ran with plenty of credit to finish third.

Brynes said: "That was a fantastic finish. I was very concerned at the fourth-last as he lost a bit of ground but Davy always felt confident.

"He'll go on a break now and we'll then bring him back for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next year.

"I've never won a Champion Hurdle before so I don't know what route we'll take to get there, although I imagine he'll stay at home in the build-up to Cheltenham.

"We took him over there last year for the Boylesports race (Boylesports.com International) but that was called off and he didn't travel over there well.

"But he was fine when he went over to Aintree and hopefully that's all behind him. He goes on any ground, he's the best I've trained and this is just unbelievable."

Sky Bet reacted by cutting the winner to 10/1 from 14/1 for next year's Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Punjabi remains 8/1 to defend his crown but Quevega has been eased to 25s from 14s.

Punjabi's trainer Nicky Henderson was gracious in defeat and was delighted with the effort put in by his charge.

"He's run a fantastic race and was coming back again at the finish. He coped with the ground and although it's not his favourite surface, he showed he's as tough as you get," said the Seven Barrows handler.

"I'm not using the ground as an excuse and he's fought for his life, but he can't jump out of that ground as well as he can on a good surface. He just lost a little bit when he didn't jump the final flight too well.

"It has been a tremendous season and that will be it for him now. He won't have any Flat racing this summer and I will probably follow the same route as last year and start him off in the 'Fighting Fifth' Hurdle."

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