Guest post written by Elliot Slater
The Willie Mullins-trained Mourad confirmed himself an up-and-coming staying hurdler in the making with a solid display to win the Grade 2 Woodiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown’s showcase meeting, and in the process provided Ireland with a possible contender to give Big Bucks a race in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, writes Elliot Slater.
Sent off the 7/4 market leader with cheltenham tips for the three-mile contest, Mourad glided through to take up the running at the final flight under Paul Townend, and only had to be nudged out to score comfortably by two lengths from veteran Powerstation, with Rigour Bob Back a further two-and-a-half lengths away in third. Mullins had plenty of praise for the patient ride given the winner by Townend, and went on to state that the World Hurdle is the definite target at the cheltenham gold cup 2011 in the spring. Mourad could have as many as two more outings before taking on the mighty Big Bucks on the third day of the four-day festival fixture.
No particularly clear picture emerged as to bookmaker opinion on the victory with a wide variety of Cheltenham odds now being on offer across the board. Paddy Power were clearly the most impressed and slashed Mourad’s odds for the World Hurdle to just 8/1 second favourite behind 4/6 shot Big Bucks. Coral seem to have been the least impressed, only marginally trimming the odds of the five-year-old son of Epsom Derby winner Sinndar, to 16/1.
Although Mourad appeared to handle the heavy ground without any apparent difficulty, Mullins commented that he had been concerned that the ground might have been too testing for his charge, and clearly believes he will be equally, if not more effective on less testing ground. The big disappointment of the race was the previously unbeaten Mossey Joe, who travelled well to the second last before weakening quickly to finish only seventh of the 10-runner field.
A broadcast journalist specialising in horse racing for more than two decades, Elliot Slater remains a keen student of the form book and of handicapping. A successful tipster, he combines his knowledge of the on and off-course betting markets with an in-depth appreciation of pedigrees and bloodlines, factors that contribute to his all round understanding of the racing industry.