Sharjah provided jockey Patrick Mullins with yet another famous day when sprinting clear to win the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The pair teamed up to scoop the pot in the Galway Hurdle in the summer, but Sharjah has subsequently taken his form to another level.
Last time out he comfortably accounted for stable companion and former champion hurdler Faugheen in the Morgiana Hurdle and this time he was Willie Mullins’ second string again behind Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon.
It was Samcro who was sent off the 6-4 favourite though, and when Jack Kennedy cruised alongside his pacemaker Tombstone, everything looked to be going according to plan.
Gordon Elliott’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner found disappointingly little though, while Sharjah displayed an electric turn of foot which forced his rider to take a pull as he was travelling so fast running down to the last.
Having safely navigated the final flight, Sharjah went clear on the run to the line to beat Supasundae by three and three-quarter lengths.
Melon got the better of a battle with Samcro for fourth with Tombstone battling back for third.
“The ground is crucial to him. It made all the difference. Patrick said he’s so good on the ground,” said Mullins.
“I’m very happy for Patrick and very happy for Rich (Ricci, owner), who probably hasn’t had the best Christmas for him.
“I thought the mistake put Melon out of the race. Ruby felt he was staying on at the end, but it was very disappointing from him.
“However, a good few of our horses having their first runs this season have run similar types of races and I’m hoping he’ll improve on that.
“It’s been an up and down meeting for us, but I’m very pleased to get another Grade One today.”
Sharjah now seems to have booked his Champion Hurdle ticket.
Mullins went on: “There is the Dublin Festival back here and he’ll probably get an entry there, but he’ll be entered now for the Champion Hurdle and he might just go straight there.
“We normally get nice ground in Cheltenham. He looks to be an improving horse. He’s only five, he’s a very young horse and he’s improving all the time.
“He looked to be very unlucky in the novice hurdle here last year and that’s why we felt he was a decent horse.
“People were maybe surprised that he beat Faugheen in the Morgiana, but when you go back and bring that form into it, it did give him a chance.
“I think it’s fair to say though that he has improved more than I anticipated he would improve.
“Any time Patrick wins a Grade One it’s a highlight, but I was also very happy for Kemboy and connections yesterday and David (Mullins) giving him such a brave ride.”