Tag Archive for: Ballyburn

Ballyburn secures record-breaking win for Willie Mullins

Ballyburn had to work harder than expected for victory in the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown but still helped Willie Mullins become the most successful trainer in Irish racing history.

Mullins moved past the great Dermot Weld with career win number 4,378, even though the latest star to emerge from his Closutton production line was a little below par.

A couple of sloppy jumps left Paul Townend nudging the 1-5 market leader on the turn for home, but he soon reeled in front-running stablemate Mirazur West once straightening up.

Jessica Harrington’s Jetara came out of the chasing pack to move into second place, but Ballyburn produced a fine leap when it mattered most at the last to quickly ease any fears of an upset.

Although not as impressive as when powering home in the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, the six-year-old completed a hat-trick of Grade One triumphs with three and a quarter lengths to spare.

On his record-breaking feat, Mullins said: “Dermot pioneered going down to Australia and won the Belmont Stakes, an American Triple Crown race. He’s done superb things, so to be mentioned alongside him is fantastic.”

Mullins sent out his first winner in 1988 and has become the dominant force in the Irish training ranks, with the Closutton handler set to be crowned champion for the 18th time when the Irish season concludes on Saturday.

His latest landmark comes at the end of a truly memorable season that saw Mullins saddle his 100th winner at the Cheltenham Festival and become the first Irish trainer since the great Vincent O’Brien some 70 years ago to win the British trainers’ championship.

His big-race haul included the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Galopin Des Champs, the Champion Hurdle with State Man and the Grand National with I Am Maximus.

He added: “It’s tremendous to break Dermot’s record. Dermot broke lots of records and is a super trainer. Any time you can do something that Dermot Weld did, I’m in very privileged company.

“I imagine someone else will come and break those records, with new fixtures every year. Numbers and records are there to be broken and it’s just great to be here in this position.”

As for Ballyburn’s performance, Mullins commented: “He did it well, he’s just got a huge engine.

“I’m looking forward to whatever he’s going to do next year, whether we’ll stay hurdling or go jumping fences. I’ll have to have a word with connections, David Manasseh and Ronnie Bartlett.

Punchestown Festival – Day Four – Friday May 3rd
Ballyburn ridden by Paul Townend jumps the last (Brian Lawless/PA).

“He’s just a really exciting prospect, the way he got down there and raced over the last two furlongs.

“It looked for a stride or two ‘would he get beaten’, as Jetara was coming with a lovely run. We were delighted with the way our fella finished.

“He’s still not mature and he’s racing too much throughout the race. Once he learns to settle a bit more and use his power at the end of the race, I think he’s going to be a super horse.

“We can go either direction with him. Two miles, two and a half – and on his pedigree, he can go out to three miles.

“I was just chatting to his point-to-point rider and he said he’s a fabulous jumper of a fence, so we have all that to put into the mix and see what direction we go in the future.

“A few of ours ran a bit flat earlier in the day and we were wondering would this fella do the same, but he didn’t. Good horses just dig deep and they do it.”

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All eyes on brilliant Ballyburn at Punchestown

Given that even Willie Mullins expressed his surprise with how easy Ballyburn won at Cheltenham, his appearance in the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown is hugely anticipated.

Despite having won at the Dublin Racing Festival from subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Slade Steel by seven lengths, Mullins was refusing to get carried away by the Ballyburn hype.

However, his 13-length romp in the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle forced Mullins to concede Ballyburn “could be anything” and he faces just five rivals, three of them stablemates.

His stable companions taking him on are Jimmy Du Seuil, second at Cheltenham to Ballyburn but only fourth at Aintree, Mirazur West, who missed Cheltenham and Aintree, and Predators Gold.

Patrick Mullins, assistant trainer to his father, said: “Willie has decided to keep Ballyburn at the intermediate distance.

Paul Townend celebrates on Ballyburn at Cheltenham
Paul Townend celebrates on Ballyburn at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

“He won at the Festival last year when he beat Dancing City and Slade Steel, two Grade One winners. That was quite a strong bumper, ironically, as it wasn’t the Champion Bumper!

“He should be very difficult to beat again. We’ve been delighted with him since Cheltenham and hopefully he can finish his season out on top.

“This season hasn’t been straightforward for Mirazur West and he seems to be slightly better going right-handed but at this distance he would need to settle a lot more effectively than he has been.

“Predators Gold was below-par in Cheltenham, but we do think he’s much better than that and he could be an interesting outsider. I would think he’s overpriced as an each-way option and he is a Festival winner already, as he won the Goffs Defender Bumper last year.”

The field is completed by Gordon Elliott’s Staffordshire Knott, who chased home his stablemate Brighterdaysahead at Aintree and Jessica Harrington’s Jetara.

Lark In The Mornin and J J Slevin impressed in the Fred Winter
Lark In The Mornin and J J Slevin impressed in the Fred Winter (David Davies/PA)

Joseph O’Brien’s Fred Winter winner Lark In The Mornin reappears in the Uniquely Novice Hurdle, while Brides Hill takes on Allegorie De Vassey in the Hanlon Concrete Irish EBF Glencarraig Lady Francis Flood Mares Chase.

In the Event Power Champion Hunters’ Chase, the Emmet Mullins-trained Its On The Line is out again having finished second at Cheltenham and won at Aintree.

The veteran Billaway, Ferns Lock, Samcro, Lifetime Ambition and Famous Clermont take him on.

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‘Wow’ – Bally burns off Gallagher rivals with consummate ease

Ballyburn made impressively light work of the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The 1-2 favourite was one of five runners for the all-conquering Willie Mullins and travelled strongly behind the leaders under Paul Townend.

When the field rounded the final bend there was no question whatsoever as to the outcome, with the Ronnie Bartlett-owned six-year-old strolling away from stablemate Jimmy Du Seuil to win by a yawning 13 lengths.

Another Closutton runner, Ile Atlantique, was a further three and a half lengths back in third. Just for good measure Mullins was also responsible for Mercurey (fourth) and Predators Gold (fifth), but Nicky Henderson’s Jingko Blue was pulled up to continue a testing time for the Seven Barrows trainer.

Paul Townend returns in victory
Paul Townend returns in victory (PA)

“It’s the first time he’s wowed me, I thought ‘wow, what a performance’ and to me that was a Champion Hurdle performance,” said Mullins.

“It was really really spectacular. With his size, scope and pedigree our owners might decide to go chasing with him next year, I don’t know. But with that performance he can go anywhere.

“Our team are in flying form, but we are just so sorry for Nicky Henderson that he has had to pull his good horses out. It could be us, so our sympathies go to him.”

He went on: “My heart hasn’t skipped a beat when a horse jumps a hurdle since Annie Power, but it skipped a beat there!

Jubilation for the Ballyburn team
Jubilation for the Ballyburn team (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I thought he was a good horse, but I didn’t view him as the horse that people were saying until today. When he jumped the last and went away up the hill I just thought ‘wow’.

“This fellow could be anything, he could be a Champion Hurdle horse, a Gold Cup horse or both with his size, scope and pedigree. He’s made for fences but looks to have the ability for a Champion Hurdle.

“I didn’t realise we’d had the first five, Michael Dickinson obviously did it in the Gold Cup but it’s nice to do it in a Grade One at Cheltenham.

“I hadn’t even got my licence then, but it was extraordinary to look at a man having so much firepower in one stable and now it looks like we’re in the same position at the moment.

“It’s nice to do that at the Festival.

Ballyburn (second left, red cap) poised to strike
Ballyburn (second left, red cap) poised to strike (Adam Davy/PA)

“I know how good our others are, they would be top-class horses any other year and they deserve to be here, the strength behind him – he blew me away.

“When we saw Slade Steel win yesterday that really franked the form and gave us an even better chance.”

Bartlett said: “He jumped well, we didn’t know how he was going to handle the ground, but that was exciting.

“Let’s enjoy the day and the future is in front of him, so we’ll just keep our fingers crossed.

“He had lots of different options and in typical Willie style he didn’t want to tell us too much, but listen it all came right in the end.”

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Mullins confident Ballyburn can make Gallagher impact

Ballyburn heads a Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle line up dominated by Willie Mullins-trained contenders.

The six-year-old has been beaten just once in five runs under rules, winning two bumpers before coming home behind Gordon Elliott’s Firefox on his hurdling debut.

Next time out he won a Leopardstown maiden by 25 lengths and then followed that success up with another at Grade One level when taking the Tattersalls Ireland 50th Derby Sale Novice Hurdle by seven lengths from Slade Steel.

The latter run was over two miles, but the one before came at two and a half and the bay, who is a three-mile point to point winner, will step up a furlong at Cheltenham.

“Ballyburn is starting to walk the walk and I hope he can go close on Wednesday,” Mullins said.

Ballyburn at Leopardstown
Ballyburn at Leopardstown (Brian Laweless/PA)

“His pedigree suggests that he shouldn’t have any problem staying this trip.”

Paul Townend will be aboard as he has been on each of the horse’s hurdling starts and he was relishing the ride whether connections had opted for this race or the shorter Supreme.

He said: “Whether he turned up Tuesday or Wednesday, he was one I was looking forward to.

“I believe he has scared off a lot of them and it’s a bit of a Willie Mullins show.”

Mullins is set to field four further runners, including the Tony Bloom-owned Ile Atlantique.

Ile Atlantique during his bumper career
Ile Atlantique during his bumper career (Niall Carson/PA)

The gelding won his hurdling debut by 25 lengths and was last seen finishing second by a neck to Readin Tommy Wrong in the Grade One Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle over two and a half miles.

“He’s been great, it was a Grade One race that he ran in at Naas and I suppose he ended up doing all the donkey work and set the race up for Readin Tommy Wrong,” said Sean Graham, racing manager to Bloom.

“He had a hard enough race that day, so we decided to miss the Dublin Racing Festival and go straight to Cheltenham. This race was always the plan because we think the trip will suit him.

“Four weeks ago I wasn’t thinking Ballyburn would run in the race, so we could be racing for a bit of placed prize money rather than win prize money.

“People don’t want to take on short-priced horses as they think there’s no point in turning up, yet year after year you see so many of them beaten.

“We’re going into the race with a horse in great form, who’ll do his absolute best, the cards could fall our way.

“Ballyburn would have to under perform for us to win but these things can happen.”

Predators Gold at Punchestown
Predators Gold at Punchestown (PA)

Mullins will also saddle Predators Gold, who finished second at Leopardstown in both the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle and the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle, two Grade One contests.

The former run was over two miles and the latter over two miles and six and a half furlongs, leaving him well proven in terms of stamina ahead of his Cheltenham start.

Mercurey, first in a Punchestown maiden hurdle when last seen, is also entered for the yard alongside Clonmel winner Jimmy Du Seuil.

The British challenge is led by Ben Pauling and Handstands, a five-year-old gelding unbeaten in three runs under rules as well as a point to point.

His most recent success was a length-and-a-half defeat of Nicky Henderson’s well-regarded Jango Baie in the Listed Sidney Banks at Huntingdon.

Handstands winning the Sidney Banks
Handstands winning the Sidney Banks (David DAvies/PA)

He was ridden by Harry Cobden for the first time on occasion and the same jockey retains the ride and will take up the reins at Cheltenham.

“He has come through all his preparations in good order and, all being well, goes there with a chance,” said Pauling.

“He won without being fully extended at Huntingdon which is an exciting thing. We don’t really know where the ceiling is with this fella but I’m sure we’ll find out on Wednesday.”

Of the jockey booking, Pauling added: “It’s not been an easy decision. Woodsy (Kielan Woods, stable jockey) has never sat on him and Ben Jones did brilliantly on him (at Newcastle) but was unfortunately banned for the Sidney Banks.

“This is not a fact that I don’t have faith in my boys because I do, but it was very much the belief of the owner Tim Radford that Harry hadn’t a ride in the race, had won the Sidney Banks on him and we should probably keep him straight.”

Henderson’s Jingko Blue and Harriet Dickin’s The Grey Man both represent the home side and complete the field.

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Ballyburn given Gallagher Festival target by Mullins

Willie Mullins has confirmed the newly-named Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle as Ballyburn’s Cheltenham Festival target, with Mystical Power and Tullyhill both bound for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Beaten by Firefox on his hurdling debut at Fairyhouse in December, Ballyburn subsequently bolted up over two and a half miles at Leopardstown before successfully reverting to two miles to strike Grade One gold at last month’s Dublin Racing Festival.

The six-year-old has been at the head of ante-post lists for both the Supreme and the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle since that latter triumph and Mullins moved to clarify running plans on Thursday.

“Mystical Power will run in the Sky Bet Supreme and Ballyburn, all being well, will run in the Baring Bingham (Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle),” he told Sportinglife.com.

“Paul Townend will probably ride Tullyhill in the Supreme.”

Mystical Power, a son of Galileo out of Champion Hurdle-winning mare Annie Power, is two from two over hurdles and looks likely to be partnered by Mark Walsh, retained jockey for part-owner JP McManus.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned Tullyhill was beaten at 1-8 on his hurdling debut, but has since registered two wide-margin wins at Naas and Punchestown respectively.

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Ballyburn team still deliberating Festival target

Willie Mullins is still to decide how he will shuffle some of his novices’ hurdle pack, with Ballyburn looking his ace card to play amongst a team brimming with talent.

The master of Closutton has won the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle a record seven times, while the following day’s Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle has gone his way on six occasions, including last year when scoring with Impaire Et Passe.

The handler is blessed with an array of riches in both races this time around, with many of his Closutton inmates double entered – including high-class pair Ballyburn and Mystical Power, who are dominant in the ante-post lists for both races.

Owned by Ronnie Bartlett in conjunction with football agent David Manasseh, Ballyburn laid down his claim to be Mullins’ Supreme number one with a faultless display at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Ballyburn at Willie Mullins’ yard in Closutton
Ballyburn at Willie Mullins’ yard in Closutton (Niall Carson/PA)

However, the Irish champion trainer is willing to bide his time before firming up final running plans.

Mullins said: “Ballyburn has been very impressive. He’s in the Supreme and Baring Bingham, pedigree-wise you’d say Baring Bingham but looking at his races you’d say Supreme. His owners haven’t shown a preference and they’d be very happy to go wherever we go. I’ll leave that one open for the time being.

“Mystical Power is another one, owned by JP who is good pals with Ronnie Bartlett and will they want to take each other on?”

“I’ve been very pleased with what he’s shown over two miles as on pedigree I thought he’d want further but he’s shaped more like a two-miler.”

Mystical Power comes with a champion’s pedigree being a son of Galileo out of Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power and having done his early winning last summer, served a reminder of his potential when landing the Grade Two Moscow Flyer last month – a race that has served Mullins well in the past.

Mystical Power enjoying a paddle in Closutton
Mystical Power enjoying a paddle in Closutton (Niall Carson/PA)

He added: “I think he’s a bit like his mother, a later developer. You get some pedigrees, like Quevega and all her progeny who are late developers, so this fellow is improving all the time.

“I was amazed with how much he’d improved in his last bit of work before the Lawlor’s of Naas, but then that was put back a week so I said ‘let’s go for the Moscow Flyer’ and he was very good in that.

“You’d have to think Supreme but we’ve had Moscow Flyer winners go both ways. It’s been a very good race for us as a trial to Cheltenham.

“Asian Master has had his two runs and I imagine he will also probably take his chance in the Supreme Novices’, he’s every right to.”

Mullins saddled a one-two in the Grade One Lawlor’s of Naas last month with Readin Tommy Wrong picking the pocket of Ile Atlantique late on.

And while the Tony Bloom-owned runner-up is pretty much certain to continue campaigning over an intermediate trip, there is the possibility Readin Tommy Wrong will step up to three miles at Prestbury Park.

“Ile Atlantique, my preference all along has been the Baring Bingham, unless something awkward happens he’ll go there,” continued Mullins.

“I thought he put up a tremendous performance in Naas when he was beaten by Readin Tommy Wrong. Ile Atlantique did all the donkey work and Daryl (Jacob) was very cute on Readin Tommy Wrong and just pounced on him.

“Cheltenham will be a different test and we’ll see. I think it’s harsh if people say he’s soft, we can change tactics and ride more of a race. I think it’s very harsh given he did all the work and then he was pounced on by a very good horse.

“Readin Tommy Wrong is in the Baring Bingham but is also in the Albert Bartlett and could go for either race. He has stamina and class so it’s a nice position for Simon (Munir) and Isaac (Souede, owners) to be in.”

Meanwhile, High Class Hero will attempt to prove he is well named when he leads Mullins’ Albert Bartlett squad, which could also include Dublin Racing Festival scorer Dancing City.

He said “When High Class Hero won his race in the autumn, I said to David Casey I’ll pick one race in the spring as a prep for Cheltenham, I don’t want him having a hard race at the Dublin Racing Festival and he found the race at Thurles and he came through it lovely.

“Dancing City had actually been disappointing me and then everything came right, it was obviously a step up in trip and maybe nicer ground were a big help to him. I think he’ll go to the Albert Bartlett with a chance.”

Nicky Henderson’s Sir Gino sets a high bar in the juvenile division, but Mullins looks set to saddle a strong team in opposition in the Triumph Hurdle.

Kargese led home a Closutton one-two-three-four in the Spring Juvenile at Leopardstown, but it is third-placed Majborough who has Mullins enthused.

“Majborough ran a cracker the other day. Every time I see him I think Gold Cup, not Triumph Hurdle, he’s just a magnificent beast,” he said.

Majborough is a nice prospect for the future
Majborough is a nice prospect for the future (PA)

“I was surprised when he arrived from France to see what an individual he was. He’s not a typical juvenile hurdler, you’re looking at him and thinking three years down the road.

“Maybe he could be like Douvan and just fully develop as a four and five-year-old. I’ve got some nice juveniles, but he’d be in the top couple of picks.”

A Cheltenham hero of old, Sir Gerhard, is set to bid for his third Festival success in the Stayers’ Hurdle, while Sa Majeste – who claimed the scalp of Noble Yeats at Limerick – could be one of Mullins’ leading players in the handicaps.

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Bally burns off Leopardstown rivals in style

Ballyburn further enhanced his burgeoning reputation with an emphatic victory in the Tattersalls Ireland 50th Derby Sale Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.

A dual bumper winner but beaten by Firefox on his hurdling debut at Fairyhouse, the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old put that right with a 25-length demolition job at Leopardstown over Christmas.

The son of Flemensfirth was the 10-11 favourite to successfully step up to Grade One level at the Dublin Racing Festival, and the drop in distance from two-and-a-half to two miles proved to be no problem whatsoever.

Paul Townend positioned Ballyburn close to the pace from flag-fall and having travelled well into the home straight, he readily kicked clear as he raced by the omitted final flight and passed the post with seven lengths in hand over Slade Steel.

Mullins said: “It was a great performance, I’m absolutely delighted. He met hurdle after hurdle right and was in control the whole way. Paul was very happy with how he did things.

“He did everything right over the minimum trip, which is good.

“He has a very low head carriage which is usually a good sign in a horse, I like it, but it’s not nice for the jockeys at times.”

Ballyburn heads ante-post lists for both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, with Mullins in no rush to commit to either race at this stage.

He added: “I’m going to talk about today and leave it at that.”

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Ballyburn out to enhance big reputation

Ballyburn bids to continue the recent domination of Willie Mullins in the Tattersalls Ireland 50th Derby Sale Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The champion trainer has saddled 10 of the last 11 winners of this Grade One event, with Gordon Elliott’s Samcro the only outlier on a roll of honour that features four other subsequent Cheltenham heroes in Vautour (2014), Klassical Dream (2019), Appreciate It (2021) and Sir Gerhard (2022).

Dual bumper winner Ballyburn was beaten by Firefox on his hurdling debut at Fairyhouse but was hugely impressive at the second attempt when scoring by 25 lengths at this venue over the Christmas period.

The six-year-old is prominent in ante-posts lists for both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March and his target is likely to become clearer after he drops back in trip from two-and-a-half to two miles this weekend.

Ballyburn might not have things all his own way, with Elliott’s Farren Glory and the Henry de Bromhead-trained Slade Steel among his rivals.

Farren Glory is already a Grade One winner having landed the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse, and he may well have doubled his top-level tally in the inaugural running of the Formby Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree on Boxing Day but for suffering a crashing fall two flights from home.

Slade Steel has so far won a maiden hurdle at Naas and the Grade Two Navan Novice Hurdle and steps up in class for the hat-trick bid in the hands of Rachael Blackmore.

“Slade Steel hasn’t put a foot wrong this season. He won his maiden hurdle over two miles at Naas in November, and he stepped up in trip last time and won the Grade Two Navan Novice Hurdle over two and a half miles,” said the jockey,

“This is back over two miles again, it’s another step up in grade into a Grade One race, and it looks like a high-quality race. Ballyburn looked very good in winning at Leopardstown at Christmas and Farren Glory won the Royal Bond Hurdle and was travelling like a winner at Aintree when he fell.

“But we’re very happy with Slade Steel. He came out of the Navan race really well, and we’re hoping he can run another big race here.”

The Ladbrokes Novice Chase is now a match race between two Mullins runners in Gaelic Warrior and Fact To File.

Stablemate Grangeclare West has been ruled out, along with the Gordon Elliott-trained pair of Found A Fifty and American Mike, leaving just the Closutton duo.

The Coolmore N.H. Sires “Hurricane Lane” Irish EBF Mares I.N.H. Flat Race brings the Dublin Racing Festival to a close and once again Mullins possesses a strong hand, with Aurora Vega leading a four-strong assault.

Out of the brilliant racemare Quevega and a full-sister to Facile Vega, the daughter of Walk In The Park is three from three in the bumper sphere and will be a warm order to extend her unbeaten record in the hands of record-breaking amateur Patrick Mullins.

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Leopardstown winner Ballyburn shoots to Festival favouritism

Ballyburn is clear favourite for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham with most bookmakers after predictably outclassing his rivals on the fourth and final day of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival.

Unbeaten in a point-to-point and two outings in bumpers, the Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old suffered an odds-on reverse at the hands of Firefox on his hurdling debut at Fairyhouse four weeks ago but was a 2-9 shot to bounce back to winning ways in the Pigsback.com Maiden Hurdle.

The result was never really in any doubt, with Ballyburn taking a lead from Saddle Her Up for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey before taking over before the home turn.

With the final flight omitted, Paul Townend only had to keep the short-priced favourite up to his work in the straight and he passed the post a full 25 lengths clear of nearest pursuer Cleatus Poolaw.

“He did what we were hoping he might do in Fairyhouse,” Mullins said.

“We were happy – he jumped well and galloped to the line, so he is improving. He has improved hugely from Fairyhouse, where he was probably beaten in a sprint.

“We are hoping there is plenty more improvement to come as well, we think there is anyway.”

Winning owner Ronnie Bartlett with Ballyburn and jockey Paul Townend
Winning owner Ronnie Bartlett with Ballyburn and jockey Paul Townend (Brian Lawless/PA)

BoyleSports were suitably impressed by Ballyburn’s performance, making him their 5-1 market leader (from 7-1) for the Ballymore at the Festival in March.

Mullins added: “He settled well enough – that’s what I was worried about, he would get too keen. He was more in his comfort zone today over two and a half miles.

“I’m not thinking of anything (future plans) – I’m just delighted we got today out of the way. He did it impressively. You’d be thinking he is more of a two-and-a-half-mile horse.

“Paul told me he appears keen, but it is just the way he carries his head low. He said every time he gave him a little feel on the reins, he came back underneath him. I’m very happy that the horse is learning all the time.”

Mullins went on to complete a treble on the card, with Grangeclare West and State Man both securing Grade One honours. The champion trainer’s total tally of winners across the four days of the Christmas Festivals at Leopardstown and Limerick ended at 16.

Champagne Admiral with jockey Michael O’Sullivan (right) after winning at Leopardstown
Champagne Admiral with jockey Michael O’Sullivan (right) after winning at Leopardstown (Brian Lawless/PA)

Stable debutant Linden Arden was all the rage for the Mullins team in the Timeless Sash Windows Irish EBF Novice Handicap Hurdle, but he could finish only sixth as Pat Fahey’s 12-1 shot Champagne Admiral made every yard of the running under a well-judged ride from Michael O’Sullivan.

Fahy said: “It was an unbelievable ride by Michael. I was thinking of dropping him in and getting him to switch off and Michael said he wasn’t happy and, maybe if there was no pace, he’d make up his own mind. You saw the result we got.

“We were happy with his mark but the handicapper is rarely wrong, as we know. In fairness, maybe he did give us a little bit of a chance, but he’s a good horse.”

Galon De Vauzelle was a 10-1 winner of the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Chase for trainer Philip Rothwell, while the concluding bumper went to Gordon Elliott’s Jalon D’oudairies.

Redemption Day, not seen since splitting stablemate Facile Vega and American Mike when second in a Grade One bumper at Punchestown in April 2022, was the 11-10 favourite to make a successful return from 611 days on the sidelines in the finale.

However, while he moved powerfully into the home straight, he was unable to reel in 9-4 shot Jalon D’oudairies, who dug deep from the front for Harry Swan to prevail by two and three-quarter lengths.

Elliott said: “He’s our Cheltenham bumper horse – we think he is nice. I thought he showed some attitude to have to make the running, we didn’t really want to.

“What I loved from two furlongs to the winning line was hands and heels and he just stretched the whole way. He picked up well.

“I thought it was a good performance. He’ll go straight there (Cheltenham), Jack Kennedy booked and all ready to go!”

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Ballyburn helps Mullins tighten grip on Champion Bumper

Willie Mullins strengthened his grasp on the Weatherbys Champion Bumper when Ballyburn powered home to land the Hospitality At Festival 2023 (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race at Punchestown.

An impressive winner of his sole point-to-point, he was sent off the 7-4 second-favourite behind Irish Panther in the hands of Patrick Mullins for his rules bow.

Keen throughout when tracking the pace-setting Quantum Storm, the son of Flemensfirth took some time to hit top gear once entering the straight, but had the after-burners switched firmly on at the finish in registering a going-away two-and-a-quarter-length success.

The winner was cut to 7-1 from 14s for the Cheltenham Festival bumper by Paddy Power, which means the Closutton handler is now responsible for five of the top six in the market for the Prestbury Park Grade One he won 12 months ago with Facile Vega.

“It was a very good performance from the horse and jockey. He was too keen the whole way and to produce a run like that after running so keen for a mile and three-quarters showed that he has a lot left in the locker,” said Mullins.

“He’s a horse that we’re really looking forward to going over jumps. He looks a real chaser in the making, however he probably booked a ticket to Cheltenham with that run.

“He looks an exciting recruit for Ronnie Bartlett and David Manasseh, who is a football agent.

“It looked a fair race, in very tough ground.”

Mullins was also on the scoresheet when the Danny Mullins-ridden Hauturiere (5-1) took advantage of favourite Harmonya Maker unseating Jordan Gainford to claim the Listed Apple’s Jade Mares Novice Hurdle

Hauturiere returns after winning the Listed Apple's Jade Mares Novice Hurdle
Hauturiere returns after winning the Listed Apple’s Jade Mares Novice Hurdle (PA)

“It was another fine tactical ride by Danny, I thought,” said Mullins.

“They went off very fast and anything that was up there early on couldn’t stay the pace. It took a lot of getting at that pace and she’s shown us that she’s a stayer.

“She was very keen early on in her career, but now she’s learning how to settle and race.

“She might get an entry in a handicap at Cheltenham or maybe wait for Fairyhouse. We’ll see what sort of rating she gets.

“You could look at the Martin Pipe or Coral Cup.”

Stealthy Tom enhanced Enda Bolger’s fine record in the ARKequine Aquatabs Inline P.P. Hogan Memorial Cross Country Chase.

Stealthy Tom after winning at Punchestown
Stealthy Tom after winning at Punchestown (PA)

The Howardstown handler has won seven of the last 10 running’s of the this contest with the last four victories all on behalf of leading owner JP McManus.

And it was the green and gold silks that were carried to success once again by Simon Torrens as he came home a length and a quarter clear of 7-2 favourite Singing Banjos aboard the 8-1 shot.

“He ran a lovely race here in the spring. I was giving the other two a better chance because he hadn’t run since last August in Killarney,” said Bolger.

“He got a lovely ride from Simon and he was nice and patient on him. He’s only seven so he’s going to be a nice horse for this game for the future.

“I was happy I had him in today because the other two boys underperformed. He’s found his niche so we’ll stick with these with him.”

A trip to the cross-country equivalent at the Cheltenham Festival is not out of the question for the winner, but it appears that all roads lead back to Kildare track for the La Touche Cup during the Punchestown Festival.

“We’ll see, I’ll talk to the boss and see what they want to do – whether the experience would do him good,” added Bolger.

“Definitely all roads will lead to the La Touche with him and he would go on nicer ground as well which is a plus for the spring meeting.

“Cheltenham is a pretty hot race and we have to see where Galvin is going to appear as well. We’re only rated 105 but he excels over those.

“He hadn’t run for a while so we’ll see how he comes out of this and make a decision. The entries don’t close for a couple of weeks anyway. He’d be the only one for it.”

Torrens was also aboard Patrick Foley’s Verdant Place (5-2 favourite) when winning the David Trundley Artist At Punchestown Handicap Hurdle.

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