Unaccompanied wins Istabraq Hurdle

Unaccompanied triumph sees mare”s odds shorted for Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham

Unaccompanied provided another boost to the reputation of last season’s crop of juvenile hurdlers with victory over Thousand Stars in Thursday’s Grade One Istabraq Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The Dermot Weld-trained mare, second to Zarkandar in last season’s Triumph, was cut from 25-1 to 12s for the Champion Hurdle by sponsors Stan James.

In front: Unaccompanied jumps the last to win The Istabraq Festival Hurdle

In front: Unaccompanied jumps the last to win The Istabraq Festival Hurdle

Her victory under Paul Townend also led apoint to be shaved off the Champion Hurdle odds of Nicky Henderson’s Grandouet (5-1), the Triumph third and winner of Cheltenham’s International Hurdle.

Zarkandar, yet to race this season, remains a 10-1 chance with trainer Paul Nicholls planning one prep race for him in February.

Weld said: ‘The Irish Champion Hurdle in a month’s time is the next logical step. If everything went well we’ll look at the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.’

Bitter blow: Sparky May (right) has been retired due to injury

Bitter blow: Sparky May (right) has been retired due to injury

Meanwhile, Sparky May, the gutsy mare who was second to Quevega at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, has been retired due to a tendon injury.

Trainer Keiran Burke said: ‘It’s a massive blow to the yard.’

Haydock inspect at 8am to see if Friday’s meeting can go ahead.

The going is described as heavy and with more rain forecast overnight, clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright said: ‘It is raceable at present so we would be hopeful but 10mm or more of rain would make it a close call.’