Hardy still a force for Hughes
There were emotional scenes at Punchestown as Dessie Hughes's veteran Hardy Eustace claimed yet more Grade One glory in the Maplewood Developments Hurdle. The 11-year-old, a dual winner of the Champion Hurdle, was sent off an unconsidered 14-1 chance despite there only being four runners.
He took the field along at a reasonable clip under Paddy Flood, who was riding him for the first time, but his chance looked to have gone when Sizing Europe took over three furlongs out.
Andrew McNamara looked confident on Henry de Bromhead's charge but a lack of a recent run began to tell and the old warrior gradually began to get back on terms.
Hardy Eustace flew the last and held on for a two-and-a-half-length win with odds-on favourite Jered only third.
"Obviously we are very happy with that and the horse is as good as ever," Hughes said. "He finished sore and lame after the World Hurdle in March and probably needed that race.
"Paddy said he blew up before the turn for home so he should improve for the run.
"We will probably go for the Hatton's Grace (at Fairyhouse on November 30) next."
Hardy Eustace is a 25-1 chance with totesport for the Champion Hurdle in March but the firm cut him from 40-1 to 20s for the World Hurdle following his victory.
Sizing Europe remains an 8-1 chance for the Champion with Jered pushed out to 12s from 8s.
Tony Martin's Northern Alliance ran out a ready winner of the Ladbrokes.com Better Prices Bigger Wins Novice Chase - but it could have all been so different.
Edward O'Grady's Shazand was travelling just as well coming to the second-last fence but suffered a crashing fall.
Thankfully Andrew McNamara and the horse appeared to escape unscathed but it enabled Paul Carberry to coast home on the 11-4 chance, beating Sizing Africa by eight lengths.
"He's a smashing jumper and will be given a break now and come back in the spring," said Martin. "He is too good a moving horse to be really at home on heavy ground."