It took nearly all of the 2 1/2 miles, but favored Hirapour got the job done Friday in the $159,375 Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings Hurdle (NSA-I) at Keeneland.
It wasn't until after the final of the 13 hurdles that Hirapour finally was able to wear down Preemptive Strike, who had led the entire way. Owned by Eldon Farm Racing Stable and trained by Douglas Fout, Hirapour was ridden by Clayton Chipperfield. The 8-year-old gelding, bred in Ireland by the Aga Khan, is by Kahyasi out of the Mouktar mare Himaya.
Hirapour was 1 3/4 lengths in front of Preemptive Strike at the wire. It was seven lengths back to Dancewel, who was third in the field of eight.
Chipperfield said the trip aboard the winner could hardly have been better.
"We got a little squeezed in the first turn, but after that it was great," he said. "He's a great jumper and the more company he has, the better he jumps. He jumped the last two fences perfectly. When I asked him for run, he gave me all he's got."
Robbie Walsh tried to steal the race aboard Preemptive Strike, taking the lead from the outset and traveling comfortably throughout. Chipperfield moved the 6-5 favorite wide and appeared ready to take the lead after the 12th jump but hesitated just slightly and had to wait until the final 100 yards to pull away.
Walsh said Preemptive Strike was going strong until the final fence.
"We took the second to last fence great, but after they galloped out to the final fence, he hit it a little awkward and that probably cost me the length or two that I lost by," he said. "(Chipperfield) joked to me as we were galloping out that he was sure glad that we didn't get that final fence clean.
"They are just two classy horses. We faced him three times now and every time they just run a great race."
Hirapour earned $95,625 for the victory.
Hirapour paid $4.40, $2.60 and $2.60. Preemptive Strike was worth $3.20 and $2.60 while Dancewet finished third and returned $5.40.