Stormy Ireland capped a fine festive period for Willie and Danny Mullins when winning the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Less than a week after combining to land the King George VI Chase with outsider Tornado Flyer, they returned to plunder another big prize.
The diminutive mare had only run once this season when proving a disappointment behind Honeysuckle in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
However, she was back to her terrier-like best on this occasion with an all-the-way success.
In her younger days she had a habit of tearing off in front and it was a case of seeing if she could hang on, but these days she is far more tractable.
Never more than five lengths clear, she looked a siting duck turning into the straight as Brewin’upastorm and McFabulous loomed up, with Guard Your Dreams and Dans Le Vent also on the premises.
Mullins had kept a bit up his sleeve, however, and kicked again, seeing off everything bar the favourite Brewin’upastorm.
Aidan Coleman appeared to be travelling marginally the better on the run to the final flight but he met it all wrong and came down, just as he had two years ago when looking set to win a Grade Two novice hurdle at the track.
That left Stormy Ireland (4-1) clear to beat Paul Nicholls’ McFabulous by two and a half lengths.
Danny Mullins said: “I’m delighted to have an association with this horse all because Paul (Townend) had a date with Al Boum Photo at Tramore.
“I was able to build the race as I saw fit. She likes to burn early but today they couldn’t get to me.
“It was 50-50 coming to the last but my gut feeling was that I was starting to get on top.
“She is a right tough little mare. She’s not the biggest but she has a huge heart.
“To have the pressure and be able to deliver as a jockey and to get it right is one of the greatest feelings imaginable. But I am just a small cog in the wheel.”
Olly Murphy was philosophical about Brewin’upastorm’s late departure.
“I don’t think anyone would disagree that he was coming to win his race and he looked as good as ever today,” he said.
“We’re not going home with any prize money but my horse seems OK and my jockey walked away, which is the main thing.”
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