Matheson Hurdle: Sharjah bidding for five in a row
Should he be successful, and it is by no means a given as he faces two very smart stablemates in State Man and Vauban, he will overtake Istabraq and Hurricane Fly as the most successful horse ever in the Grade One.
Despite being an amateur, jockey Patrick Mullins has struck up an incredibly successful partnership with the nine-year-old, trained by his father, Willie, and a place in Irish racing history will be assured if he manages to come out on top once again.
While he may not appear to be the yard’s first string, one positive Sharjah fans can cling to is that for the first three of his wins in the race he was not, either.
“It is not often you get an opportunity to top Hurricane Fly and Istabraq, so I’m looking forward to it,” said Mullins.
“Leopardstown at Christmas, on the inside track, really suits him. It’s a quick track, it’s usually nice ground and he was even going to win his novice race at this meeting five years ago when he fell jumping a shadow.
“It’s incredible for a horse to be running at Grade One level for six years, very few horses do that, very few have the soundness – or the ability – to do that. It says a heck of a lot about his constitution.”
What a race. What a horse.
SHARJAH wins the Matheson – again!
— Horse Racing Ireland (@HRIRacing) December 29, 2021
Sharjah was beaten by State Man on his return to action this term, with last season’s County Hurdle winner four lengths too good in last month’s Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.
Mullins admits it will be hard to close the gap on his much younger stable companion, who is the 8/13 favourite in the Matheson Hurdle betting odds.
“I was a little bit disappointed with him in the Morgiana, more that I had to come off the bridle to get by Saldier, but then I liked how he finished the race and he chased State Man to the line,” said the assistant trainer and jockey.
“I’ll need him to improve from that but I would hope that he will. I’ve four lengths and four years to find!
“It won’t be easy and we’ll be the underdog, but I’m looking forward to giving it a go.”
In the same Susannah and Rich Ricci silks is last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner Vauban (pictured below), who was not expected to run in the race but is the 5/1 third favourite.
“Vauban had the option of running against his own age at Limerick, but Willie decided he wants to find out where he lies with the big boys,” said Mullins.
Pied Piper (11/1), third to Vauban in the Triumph, runs for Gordon Elliott after two comfortable wins at Cheltenham and Down Royal this season.
Joey Logan, racing manager to Pied Piper’s owners Caldwell Construction Ltd, said: “He has to step up now and see where we are, but his work is very good at home and Gordon is very happy with him.
“This is going to tell us if he’s a Champion Hurdle horse or a Coral Cup horse or whatever. We’ll know more after this, that’s for sure.”
Norman Lee’s 150/1 outsider She Is Electric completes the field.
All odds and market correct at date of publication