This was a performance on the part of the son of Jeremy that had sheer class written all over it.
He came into the contest with an impeccable record, three from three over flights, and was particularly impressive on his previous outing when slamming Diakali at Leopardstown. But this was easily his toughest test to date and nothing that had gone before could have prepared us for the demolition job that was to come.
The winner absolutely cruised ahead off the home turn, with Cooper sitting motionless. He let out an inch of rein and Our Conor quickly surged clear, flicked over the last and swept away on the run-in to beat Far West by a staggering 15 lengths. Even the normally reserved and utterly realistic Hughes seemed moved by what he had just witnessed.
“He’s a Champion Hurdle horse,” said Hughes.
“He stays, jumps and has pace, the Champion Hurdle is all about jumping.” Hughes should know, he won the race twice with Hardy Eustace. “I have to say I’m surprised by the way he did it. He did show us at home that he was improving every day since Leopardstown. He has been a natural since day one, we schooled him as two-year-old and he was very good.”
The cool Cooper remarked: “He put them to bed very easily. He travelled so well, I was there a mile too soon, but he has so many gears and class. He kept galloping and I could have done with a bit of company the whole way, because he would have gone further and further clear.
“Beaten by an aeroplane”
“I have never ridden a Champion Hurdler, but he is giving me the feel of one. He’s definitely the best I have ever ridden and may be the best I ever ride, he is that good.”
Paul Nicholls, who saddled the remote second, Far West, probably summed it up best when he simply said “beaten by an aeroplane”.
The superb Cooper’s day soon got better, as he gave Tony Martin’s Ted Veale a quite brilliant drive to land the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle.
Balls of steel are required to sit near the back at this meeting, but that’s precisely what Cooper did, as the running was made by Willie Mullins’ much-improved Tennis Cap.
Carrying the colours made famous by Florida Pearl, Tennis Cap ran his heart out, but through the final half-mile Ted Veale gradually worked into the contest. He arrived on the bridle going to the last and then eased away on the flat, for what could only be regarded as a beautifully executed hold-up ride.
“I have to pinch myself, it’s hard to believe,” exclaimed Cooper. “Everything went right. He travelled, jumped and everywhere I wanted to go got the splits. Coming down the hill I had so much horse under me it was just a matter of where to put him.
“Tony told me to hold onto him as long as I could because, in the ground, he might not get the trip. He got it off to a tee, he’s some trainer. I waited as long as I could, I got there too soon on Our Conor and didn’t want that to happen again.”