Impaire Et Passe survives stewards room scare

Impaire Et Passe survived a lengthy stewards enquiry en-route to landing the William Hill Aintree Hurdle on Thursday.

IMPAIRE ET PASSE (right, green silks) winning the Aintree Hurdle at Aintree in Liverpool, England.
IMPAIRE ET PASSE (right, green silks) winning the Aintree Hurdle at Aintree in Liverpool, England. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

There was a dramatic finish to the William Hill Aintree Hurdle on Thursday, as Impaire Et Passe survived a stewards room scare to land the Grade 1 prize for trainer Willer Mullins and jockey Paul Townend.

Isaac and Simon Munir's gelding chased home subsequent Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle winner Teahupoo in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December, before finishing third behind Champion Hurdle hero State Man and the reopposing Bob Olinger in the Irish equivalent two months later.

With no State Man to worry about and the step back up in trip expected to suit, Impaire Et Passe found himself the 11/10 market leader to return to the winners' enclosure for the first time since landing the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown last season.

Paul Townend looked to be travelling best of all approaching the final flight, but the race would soon change complexion as his mount shifted right-handed over the last. Impaire Et Passe produced a good leap to jump the front but soon veered left-handed under the Townend drive, hampering both Bob Olinger and County Hurdle winner Langer Dan in up the Aintree run-in.

The Willie Mullins-trained 2023 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle winner idled in front as those in behind began to remount their challenge up the run. Impaire Et Passe continued to rift left-handed causing interference to both Bob Olinger and Langer Dan in the closing stages, but Mullins' charge hung tough up the straight to cling on by a diminishing nose from the Henry De Bromhead-trained 9/4 chance.

Langer Dan finished a further short-head behind back in third.

Impaire Et Passe had to survive a lengthy stewards enquiry but was eventually confirmed the winner.

Trainer Willie Mullins said: "When I looked at all of the different angles I thought the overhead angle looked very good. It was very revealing and that gave us a great chance. When Paul (Townend) went past Harry (Skelton on Langer Dan) after the last hurdle there was never any interference there, and I thought it was going to be very hard to disqualify us at that stage. There were pluses and minuses, but on the balance of it I thought it was a hard result to change.

"Paul thought he was idling in front, and I think that was a legitimate excuse as well, but it will be interesting to hear how it went with the stewards'. To get him back in a Grade One, and a race of this magnitude, was fantastic after his last two runs. I have to say one thing watching the race I thought Rachael (Blackmore on Bob Olinger) gave the ride of the race. Her riding was fantastic, but she just didn't get there.

"He is in at Punchestown, but we will think about France. We will have to see how he comes out of that race."

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