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Colonel earns Christmas salute

Lieutenant Colonel just collared gritty front-runner Jetson to lift the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The winner had beaten Jetson by four lengths in the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse just weeks earlier, but the margin was down to three-quarters of a length this time after a pulsating duel down the straight.

However, it was the same result as Bryan Cooper got the Sandra Hughes-trained 4-1 shot past the post first, with Monksland running a fine race on his return to finish third, and At Fishers Cross fourth.

Cooper, on his way to a treble in the Gigginstown House Stud colours which also included the victories of Identity Thief and Lexus hero Road To Riches, had his mount handily placed in second as Jetson set the pace.

Though Lieutenant Colonel got his head in front after the final flight, Jetson would not give in without a fight despite having little room on the far rail, and the battle went all the way to line.

Paddy Power cut Lieutenant Colonel to 14-1 from 25s for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham, while BetVictor go 10s from 16-1.

"He was very, very good. We thought he stayed and I'm delighted. He was brilliant," said Hughes, who took over the training licence after the death of her father Dessie last month.

"He's very economical in his jumping. He stays well and has a bit of class - that's what you need in the three-mile Grade Ones. Bryan was fantastic on him. I don't have to worry when he is riding.

"Christmas was very hard, as you can imagine, but this is fantastic for the lads in the yard and it's what we work for every day.

"We'll take him home now and have a look. I'll talk to Michael and Eddie (O'Leary). The World Hurdle at Cheltenham is his main aim this season."

Hughes's brother Richard, Britain's champion Flat jockey, said: "I'm very proud of her. She's up at 6.30 every morning. I'll stay out of the limelight as it's her day."

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