Joy for Cooper as Petit strikes
Bryan Cooper put a couple of tough days behind him when Petit Mouchoir sprinted away from Nichols Canyon to win the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown.
A faller three flights from the finish when appearing to hold every chance in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle last month, Henry de Bromhead's charge was an easy-to-back 6/1 shot for this Grade One contest, with last year's winner Nichols Canyon the 2/5 favourite to provide Willie Mullins with yet another winner over the festive period.
Bryan Cooper sent Petit Mouchoir straight to the lead, with Nichols Canyon his closest pursuer throughout the two-mile journey.
The big two raced towards the second-last almost as one, but Petit Mouchoir jumped it the better and at that point suddenly found another gear to leave Nichols Canyon and his three other rivals trailing in his wake.
He had the race sewn up approaching the final flight and skipped over it to seal a a seven-length success.
Nichols Canyon battled on for second ahead of Ivanovich Gorbatov in third, but the winner was in a league of his own and understandably earned a dramatic cut in Sky Bet's Champion Hurdle odds from 25/1 to 10/1.
Cooper said: "Usually I don't ride a lot of proper two-milers – it's usually the three-mile chasers I've been riding the last couple of years, but this fellow has a lot of gears.
"We wanted a strong-run two miles and we got it. We went a good gallop and you wouldn't have thought he took a bad fall the last day as he jumped very well and it didn't seem to knock his confidence. Henry had him spot on for the day.
"He can go a nice, proper gallop over two miles and he's able to keep it going. I fancied him big time for the Fighting Fifth and a lot of people said I was mad riding him over Apple's Jade and he fell with the race at his mercy, but thankfully we got the Grade One today."
De Bromhead confirmed that a bid at winning the two-mile hurdling crown at Cheltenham would now be high on his agenda. He said: "It was amazing. He gave him some ride. It was brilliant and he jumped deadly.
"It's lovely when it works out. It's been a frustrating few days now but that's made up for it all. It's great.
"We haven't had a bad week and have had a few winners but just not here, so it's been a bit trying. I never expect anything like that – I'm miserable!
"I was hoping he'd run well. He looked to be going very well in Newcastle when he fell, but you never know.
"Just to go and do what he did it reminds me of a horse (Sizing Europe) a few years ago that we had that did something like that. It was similar in the way he travelled. He's just a galloping horse. He lobbed away and just has a big, galloping stride.
"I'll speak to Eddie and Michael (O'Leary), but I think we have every right to consider the Champion Hurdle. He hasn't had a hard season thus far so the Irish Champion Hurdle might be a plan. I'll have to speak to the lads.
"He was a good horse last year and had some great runs at the back end. He's tough. Bar Newcastle with the fall, he's done nothing wrong with us. He's a lovely horse to do anything with and I'm just delighted to see him go and do that. I'm just blown away."
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