Saldier joint-favourite for Champion after downing Klassical Dream in Morgiana

Willie Mullins continued his domination of the Morgiana Hurdle on Saturday when he registered an unprecedented ninth consecutive win in the race, but as has happened in previous years it was not the stable's first string who prevailed.

It was the turn of last season's champion two-mile novice hurdler Klassical Dream to be overturned this time by stable companion Saldier, but as winning rider Danny Mullins said afterwards, his mount arguably had the best line of form into the race.

Saldier had not been seen for just over a year, since he fell at the last in the Fishery Lane Hurdle at Naas when locked in a battle with none other than the subsequent ill-fated Champion Hurdle winner Espoir D'Allen.

That fall left the son of Soldier Hollow with a shattered nose and meant a year on the sidelines, but the lost time appears likely to be made up for this season.

A winner of the 2018 Grade 1 Champion Four Year Old Hurdle on his last visit to this venue, Saldier quickened off the bend to take it up coming to the last and just had to be ridden out to the line to hold off former Irish Champion Hurdle winner Petit Mouchoir by a length and a half, with the 2-5 shot Klassical Dream fading to be third, a further length back.

Mullins said the x-ray of Saldier's nose after last year's fall looked like a bag of Corn Flakes, and after the patience had paid off, he said: "We let nature take its course after his injury last year and it appears to have worked. His run at Naas last year showed us he could be Grade 1 material and he is. I think he'll improve from that and a stronger gallop will suit him."

Supporters of Klassical Dream can take some comfort from the fact Hurricane Fly and Faugheen were both defeated in this race in the past, and the champion trainer added: "Klassical Dream threw himself at the first and from there he was just too keen. 

"We've been lucky in this race, even though our first string has not always won! But they're all there doing their best and that's what happens."

Danny Mullins paid tribute to his uncle, commenting: "I quietly fancied Saldier. His season finished before it started last year and his Naas run was arguably the best line of form coming into the race.

"The patience Willie showed with him after breaking his nose paid off today. Some might have panicked but Willie was adamant he wasn't where he needed to be and that's why he's a master."

Paddy Power cut Saldier to 4-1 joint-favourite (from 14) alongside Buveur D'Air for the Unibet Champion Hurdle, while Klassical Dream was eased to 5-1 (from 3).

Runner-up Petit Mouchoir returned to his best and trainer Henry de Bromhead said: "He ran a blinder and that was the Petit Mouchoir of old. He'll stay over hurdles."