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Petit Mouchoir on course for a shot at Champion Hurdle

By Keith Hamer

Petit Mouchoir emerged as a major contender for the Champion Hurdle with a stunning victory on the final day of the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown. Henry de Bromhead's charge was a 6-1 shot for the Ryanair Hurdle, with last year's winner Nichols Canyon the 2-5 favourite to provide Willie Mullins with yet another winner over the festive period.

Having fallen three flights from the finish when appearing to hold every chance in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle last month, Petit Mouchoir was sent straight into the lead by Bryan Cooper and jumped slickly to keep up the momentum.

Nichols Canyon closed the gap on the run to the second-last, but Petit Mouchoir jumped it the quicker and showed an impressive change of gear to leave his rivals trailing in his wake, eventually coming home with seven lengths in hand.

De Bromhead's charge was cut to around 10-1 for the Champion Hurdle and a shot at the two-mile hurdling crown now looks top of his agenda.

"It was amazing. Bryan gave him some ride. It was brilliant and he jumped deadly," said De Bromhead. "I never expect anything like that - I'm miserable. I was hoping he'd run well.

"He hasn't had a hard season thus far, so the Irish Champion Hurdle might be a plan.

"I'm just blown away."

There was a pulsating climax to the Neville Hotels Novice Chase, with the Jessica Harrington-trained Our Duke (4-1) seeing out the three miles best to narrowly outpoint Coney Island and Disko.

Harrington said: "After the mistake he made at the second last, I thought that was his chance gone, but he doesn't know how to give up.

"He has plenty of stamina and three miles is no problem."

Our Duke is a general 10-1 shot for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham and the trainer added: "He could go there. It kind of suits him with the hill and everything."

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