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It's a Ruby Tuesday in Champion Hurdle

Updated: Tuesday, 13 Mar 2012 20:27

Rock On Ruby stayed on well to land hurdling's biggest prize
Rock On Ruby stayed on well to land hurdling's biggest prize

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Rock On Ruby was a surprise winner of the Stan James Champion Hurdle as reigning champion Hurricane Fly never really got in a blow and finished third.

With Overturn adopting his customary front-running tactics, Noel Fehily sat closest to him on the Paul Nicholls-trained winner.

The two opened up a gap on the rest of the field heading down the hill and all of a sudden, those in behind were struggling to bridge the gap.

Hurricane Fly could be spotted travelling strongly under Ruby Walsh in the middle part of the race, the jockey had gone for his whip long before the turn for home.

The first two dominated the contest from start to finish and of the pair, it was Fehily who had most up his sleeve and in the end his mount was a decisive winner at odds of 11/1 to give Nicholls his first Champion Hurdle success.

Binocular, winner of the race in 2010, tracked Hurricane Fly for most of the race having been held up at the back of the field.

He, too, made late ground to finish fourth, but as with the majority of the field, it was all too late.

After the race, Noel Fehily said: "I went down and schooled him earlier in the week and he felt amazing.

"I was told not to worry about sending him on but I was worried going to the last as he was pulling up a little bit, but he picked up again afterwards.

"The ground probably suited him a little bit today, he was very well on the day."

Paul Nicholls, who saddled four of the runners, said: "It's just testament to the whole team. It's a really tremendous effort and everyone is going to be thrilled.

"I didn't like the way Zarkandar looked in the paddock. He was a bit shelly and a bit light.

"This horse is a seven-year-old, he's the right age, and it's brilliant.

"It was a great ride by Noel. He's a good man and has got a great winner. This is awesome."

Willie Mullins' trainer of dethroned champion Hurricane Fly, said: "He seems fine afterwards. Ruby thought they went quick enough and he's maybe disappointed us today.

"I thought coming up the far side he should have been able to move up quite easily one or two places to be in better order coming down the hill, and he didn't do that.

"He didn't fire when Ruby wanted to kick off the hill and get back into the race.

"He quickened up to get back in the race going to the last, but that was his race run.

"I thought he was going to be tailed off, then he got back into the race to give me hope, but clearly that was too much effort.

"He'd done everything right at home. We'd had a trouble-free run and the ground is no excuse.

"He was beaten by two better horses on the day.

"We knew this day was going to come. You can't keep winning.
Maybe he just didn't fire and something will come to light next week.

"I'm disappointed but we live to fight another day and we'll go ahead to Punchestown I think. We still have a horse and we'll have other days, I hope."

Walsh added: "He was beaten too far out. He hit the first coming down the hill and I knew I wouldn't get any closer."

Tony McCoy said of Binocular: "He was flat out a long way out."

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