Supasundae banished Jessica Harrington’s fears that history might be about to repeat itself as he instead ensured she outdid her close friend Nicky Henderson in the Betway Aintree Hurdle.
After filling the runner-up spot behind Henderson’s L’Ami Serge in the Grade One 12 months ago, Supasundae this time got the better of a protracted battle with dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air in a race far from short on drama.
With multiple Grade One winner Faugheen pulled up sharply by Ruby Walsh just after the field headed out on to their final circuit, there was more woe for trainer Willie Mullins when stablemate and Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon took a crashing fall at the third-last.
Supasundae took the lead over the last and was not to be denied as he prevailed by a length and a quarter despite being pushed all the way by Buveur D’Air, who was bidding to bounce back from his Champion Hurdle fall.
The nine-year-old’s win followed his seventh place over half a mile further in last month’s Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle.
Harrington said: “He just wasn’t himself at Cheltenham.
“That was the first bad race he has run for me. I wasn’t coming here with great confidence, because I wasn’t sure what went wrong at Cheltenham – but he was great there.
“I know (jockey) Robbie (Power) has always said it kind of looks like he is off it and is just squeezing him along – but he just keeps coming back and finding. Two and a half miles is probably his distance, because he doesn’t really get three miles.
“The twice he has been second here, last time one of Nicky’s has beaten him.
“I thought ‘oh no, this is deja-vu or history again and Buveur D’Air is going to come and do us’ – but he stayed going.”
Having opened his account for the campaign, Supasundae – who runs in the silks of the late Ann and Alan Potts – may drop back down to two miles to defend his Punchestown Champion Hurdle crown.
Harrington added: “He will go to Punchestown now – whether he goes two miles or three miles I’ve got to make up my mind.
“I’d probably go back in trip, because he won there last year, but it just depends what turns up. He will be put in both races.”
As for Buveur D’Air, Henderson has not ruled out a trip to Punchestown for a potential re-match.
“He’s run a great race,” said the trainer.
“He did nothing wrong. It was a tough race. They had to see it out in that ground – I thought he stayed well.
“It was a funny race, and got a bit messy. Melon didn’t help us when he fell – when you get checked in your stride like he did, it doesn’t help.
“He just gave Supasundae the run on us – but it’s great for Jessie.
“I don’t know about Punchestown. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. I think Ireland very much depends on the ground.”
Mullins is hoping his veteran former champion Faugheen can return, having appeared to be in fine form in the race preliminaries.
“I was told by the vets that he had a fibrillating heart,” he said.
“We will get him home, and that could clear up in 24 hours.
“Ruby said he flew down to the start, and when he went down and looked at the first hurdle everything was fine.
“(Then) it was like someone turning off a light switch.
“He knew coming past the winning post (with a circuit to run) he wasn’t going anywhere, so he pulled him up. Hopefully he will be all right.”