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Franco De Port delights Willie Mullins with Grade One triumph

Franco De Port stepped up on his debut fencing success to give trainer Willie Mullins a record seventh Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

The five-year-old won a beginners’ chase at Thurles a month ago, on his first race since disappointing in the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

This represented a huge hike in class, but Franco De Port (8-1) proved up to the task. He was kept away from the pace set by Felix Desjy and Benruben, while Franco De Port’s stalemate Blackbow came down at the third fence.

Darver Star and Benruben led the field four out, and while Felix Desjy got back into contention before the second-last by that point Bryan Cooper had brought Franco De Port to challenge and he hit the front at the final fence before going on to land the spoils by four and a half lengths from Darver Star.

Franco De Port was given a quote of 16-1 for the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival with Betfair and Paddy Power and was cut to 33-1 from 50-1 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase with both firms.

Mullins said: “That was a nice surprise. He jumped great and capitalised on the very fast early pace which seemed to catch out a lot of the runners.

“Bryan was terrific, just keeping him together and keeping him jumping. He took what was left to him after they went too fast early on.

“He could stick at that trip, but you’d obviously look at a longer trip for him, maybe two and a half.

“I’d imagine the Dublin Racing Festival will be the plan, we’ll see how he comes out of this race today.”

He also had praise for the winning rider, saying: “Bryan is a top jockey who took his chance today and took it very well.

“We had a fair idea the way the race might work out. We played for that and it worked out.”

Castlegrace Paddy inflicts Fortria defeat on favourite A Plus Tard

Castlegrace Paddy proved too strong for hot favourite A Plus Tard in the Tote Fortria Chase at Navan.

Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard filled the runner-up spot behind Ballyoisin in last year’s renewal of the Grade Two contest – and having since won a Grade One at Leopardstown and finished a close-up third in the Ryanair at Cheltenham, he was well fancied to go one better.

However, it was clear some way from home it was not going to be entirely straightforward for the 1-2 favourite, as he jumped stickily on occasions under Rachael Blackmore behind his pacesetting stablemate Ornua.

After the latter dropped away early in the home straight, Pat Fahy’s stable star Castlegrace Paddy (9-1) took over the lead, with both A Plus Tard and Eclair De Beaufeu in hot pursuit.

In the end it turned into a straight shootout and try as he might, A Plus Tard could never quite get on terms with Castlegrace Paddy, who passed the post half a length to the good in the hands of Bryan Cooper.

“He jumped brilliant and himself and Bryan seem to get on very well,” said Fahy.

“Hopefully we can keep going in this direction. We won the Hilly Way Chase in Cork a couple of years ago, but didn’t have a great year after that, so we won’t get too carried away.

“More than likely we’ll look at Leopardstown over Christmas. He’s beaten a horse there that will probably improve a lot, but so will ours – I’d rate him him a serious horse.

“Maybe if the ground was good you’d be looking to go up in trip, but on that sort of ground I think that (two miles) is his trip.”