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Appreciate It powers home in Future Champions contest

Appreciate It provided Willie Mullins with a sixth victory in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The six-year-old won twice in the bumper sphere at Leopardstown last season before filling the runner-up spot behind his currently sidelined stable companion Ferny Hollow in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Having made a successful start to his hurdling career at Cork last month, Appreciate It was the 7-4 favourite stepping up to Grade One level and could hardly have been more impressive in the hands of Paul Townend.

After tracking the pacesetting Fire Attack for much of the two-mile journey, the six-year-old took the lead early in the home straight and powered clear after the dolled off final flight – passing the post nine lengths clear of Irascible, with Keskonrisk third.

Gordon Elliott’s Royal Bond winner Ballyadam was ultimately a shade disappointing in fourth.

Mullins said “He surprised me and impressed me. I was wondering if he was a two-and-a-half-mile horse or a two-mile horse. I know he can easily do it over two and a half, but to come back to two miles and put in a performance like that in a Grade One was impressive.

“I’d say we will go down the two-mile route now. He’s not flashy like Ferny Hollow, but he has a great cruising speed and he covers a lot of ground, which helps him to burn other horses off.

“He’ll probably have another run here at the Dublin Racing Festival.”

Following the champion trainer’s comments, Paddy Power make Appreciate It their 11-4 favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham (from 14-1), while easing him to 8-1 from 6-1 for the longer Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

Exciting times ahead for powerful team of Willie Mullins novices

Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It are expected to take high rank among Willie Mullins’ team of exciting novice hurdlers this season.

The pair were first and second in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham – an event the Closutton handler has dominated since its inception in 1992.

For assistant trainer and amateur jockey Patrick Mullins, it was a slightly bittersweet moment as he was riding Appreciate It.

“Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It are two fine specimens. Appreciate It is probably a bigger horse, he ran a cracker in the Champion Bumper, ran all the way to the line, but Ferny Hollow just picked him up,” said Mullins.

“Paul (Townend) gave Ferny a fantastic ride. I wasn’t gutted when he came past me, the only bit of commentary I heard was that Ferny Hollow was coming and I knew what would happen.

“That was our first winner of the week in the last race on the second day, so I was just glad it was one of ours by then!”

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He went on: “Ferny Hollow will jump a fence no problem, he’s won a point, jumps will help him settle. Appreciate It will probably step up in trip and be more of a Neptune/Albert Bartlett type, while Ferny Hollow is probably a Supreme horse, or Neptune, depending how he goes.”

Another winner in March for the Mullins team was Burning Victory in the Triumph Hurdle – but her success was more than a little bit fortunate given the final-flight blunder by Goshen who was well clear.

“Burning Victory is not a natural jumper, you saw that at Fairyhouse and again at Cheltenham where Paul gave her a fantastic ride. It’s hard to think if she met Goshen she could beat him, but I suppose the Mares’ Hurdle could be an option. She’ll have to brush up her jumping,” said Mullins.

Burning Victory was a rather fortunate and surprise winner of the Triumph Hurdle
Burning Victory was a rather fortunate and surprise winner of the Triumph Hurdle (Simon Cooper/PA)

One who has made great strides already is another mare, Shewearsitwell, for a new syndicate attached to the yard.

“Shewearsitwell always works very well and has a great attitude, she could go for the Royal Bond,” said Mullins.

“It’s fantastic for Closutton Racing Club to get such a good horse so early on, she could be another Airlie Beach. It’s hard to think you might get two fillies like that, but we’re hoping. The mares’ novice at Cheltenham will be the ultimate aim.”

Albert Bartlett winner Monkfish heads a formidable squad of novice chasers that also includes Asterion Forlonge, The Big Getaway and Klassical Dream.

Mullins added: “Paul schooled Monkfish morning and was delighted with him. He’s a horse who is improving all the time and maturing – the penny is starting to drop and he’s as exciting a novice chaser as we have in the yard.

“Elixir D’Ainay and Asterion Forlonge, who both ran in the Supreme (Novices’ Hurdle) last season, will be going chasing – they both schooled well too.

“Asterion obviously jumped very right in the Supreme, but I schooled him (over fences) last week and he was fairly straight and we’re hoping it was just a one off.

“I thought what probably got overlooked was how well he ran, considering what he was doing throughout the race.

“I can’t wait to see The Big Getaway over three miles on heavy ground over fences. I think he’s the biggest horse we’ve ever had.

“Klassical Dream is probably going a bit under the radar. Last year just didn’t go to plan and his jumping fell apart, but he’s a horse with an awful lot of ability and I wouldn’t be forgetting about him at all.”