Quilixios powers into Arkle reckoning with Naas victory

Quilixios was much the best to take the BetVictor Irish EBF Novice Chase at Naas, in which the well-regarded Mister Policeman could only finish third.

The latter was the 8-15 favourite for Willie Mullins after winning both Irish starts in good style, including his chasing debut at Fairyhouse in November.

It was assumed there was more to come from him – but it was Henry de Bromhead’s 5-1 shot Quilixios, well beaten when last seen in the Florida Pearl, who moved with most menace in the five-runner field.

On the turn from home Rachael Blackmore pulled clear and was chased but never threatened by Gordon Elliott’s Sa Fureur, as Mister Policeman was a remote third after struggling from some way out.

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“He was really good, jumped brilliant, travelled well and we couldn’t have really asked for any more,” De Bromhead said of the former Triumph Hurdle hero.

“He jumped a bit right in Limerick (chase debut) and we were concerned about that, but no sign of it here.

“He has loads of gears and is a Triumph Hurdle winner. He’s a class horse.

“We got the trip wrong the last day. He wouldn’t blow you away with speed at home, but those good two-milers have such a high cruising speed. Sizing Europe was the same and so was Special Tiara.

“He’s in the Irish Arkle, but we’ll speak with everyone at Cheveley (Park Stud, owners) and see where we go.

“I’d say he’ll have to go to the Arkle (at Cheltenham) now.”

Betfair halved Quilixios’ odds for Cheltenham, making him 25-1 for the Arkle from a previous price of 50-1.

The Cheveley Park colours were to the fore again when Tullyhill got off the mark for the Mullins team in the Matt Britton Irish EBF Maiden Hurdle.

The grey was a leading bumper horse last season when finishing second to A Dream To Share in the Grade One Punchestown Champion Bumper in April.

He was expected to land his hurdles debut at the same track in November, but his jumping left plenty to be desired and he was beaten 24 lengths in second.

This time he was 2-9 favourite under Paul Townend and though his jumping was still in need of perfecting he was unchallenged in securing a seven-length victory.

“He needs practice jumping. He’s just very sticky and his best jump was maybe the second-last when they came up around him,” Mullins said.

“He probably likes being competitive and I’m happy his jumping will improve as the season goes on.

“He’s probably more of a chaser in the long run.

“He needs all the practice he can get and we’ll get at least another run into him (before Cheltenham).

“I thought he was a stayer, but he might be better going a good gallop over two miles. After getting beaten the last day I don’t want to go out in trip with him yet.”

Gordon Elliott got on the board in the Race And Stay Handicap Chase with Pats Choice, a 16-1 shot who has been busy since the season began and was partnered by Jack Kennedy.

“Jack gave him a brilliant ride. He jumped great and travelled great for him,” said the Cullentra handler.

“He grabbed hold of him and got him out there early.

“He was headed a few times, but Jack gave him a great ride. He’ll keep going in those two-miles chases.”

Anthony McCann’s Simply Shabra took the Naas Racecourse Handicap Hurdle at 11-1, triumphing by two and a half lengths under Conor Brassil to prolong a racing career that was on the ropes.

“It was near enough one of his last chances,” the trainer said.

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“He showed well in maidens as a younger horse but wasn’t showing it in his last couple of runs and Rita (Shah, owner) said we’ll give him one more go.

“Conor said the last day he took a blow three out in Down Royal. He said give ‘me one more crack on him and I’ll get him across the line’, and we put a set of blinkers on him.

“Conor gave him a great ride and I’m very happy with him.”

The concluding Fifty Stars “What About Those First Foals” (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race went the way of 100-30 favourite Shuttle Diplomacy, trained by Tom Cooper and ridden by Patrick Mullins to a length-and-a-half victory.

“He was very green even though he’s been away a couple of times but it’s different when they come here,” said Cooper.

“He looked at the road crossing and if he didn’t hang he would have won easily. I’d say it was a good race.

“We might go to Limerick for the Listed bumper and then hang on for Punchestown. He’ll jump a hurdle and has plenty of schooling done.

“The man on top was masterful.”

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