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Cape Gentleman earns rise in class as Emmet Mullins dominates at Cork

Cape Gentleman is in line for a Grade One tilt after taking his record over fences to a perfect two from two with an authoritative success at Cork – on what was a day to remember for trainer Emmet Mullins.

Sent off at 100-30, with stablemate Noble Yeats heading the market for the Grade Three Paddy Power From The Horses Mouth Podcast EBF Novice Chase, the Brian Hayes-ridden five-year-old led from flag-fall and survived a minor blip two out to come 14 lengths clear of Run Wild Fred.

Mullins said of his charge, who has also won on the Flat and over hurdles: “He jumped great again and handled the ground. It’s loose, but they’re getting through it – and they’re not out on their feet, thankfully.

“It was good to get that second run into him now, for that bit more experience, and he’s probably entitled to go on to Fairyhouse now for the Drinmore (next month).

“It’s a big advantage to have those two runs under his belt, going on, and hopefully if he puts in another performance of jumping like that he’ll take beating wherever he goes.”

He added: “I told Brian he didn’t have to make it, just to keep rolling on him. Brian says he’s like a big cat to jump, he’s so nimble and athletic – and he’s versatile ground-wise. It was proper good ground in Punchestown. There are a lot of strings to his bow. It’s exciting times ahead.”

Cape Gentleman – who earned quotes of 14-1 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase and 16-1 for the Arkle with Paddy Power – was a second winner on the card for Mullins and Hayes, after Crowns Major doubled his career tally under National Hunt rules with a seven-length victory in the opening maiden hurdle.

The Punchestown bumper winner faced a strong challenge from Mosala when that rival came down at the second-last but was in control thereafter and well on top from runner-up Figurehead at the line.

After the 11-10 favourite’s success, Mullins said: “I was a bit worried about the ground, but that is a great start.

“It wasn’t his Derby today, and I told Brian to teach him as much as he could. He jumps well and had schooled well at home and came through nicely.

“He was a bit green in front going to the last, but hopefully there is plenty more in the tank.

“He was rated 96 on the Flat, jumps well and will get an entry for the Royal Bond. Being as slick as he is (over hurdles) is a huge asset to have with that pace, and he is exciting.”

It got even better for Mullins when Agritime gave him a first ever treble in landing the bumper as the 30-100 favourite, ridden by his cousin, Patrick Mullins.

The trainer said: “That’s my first treble, and there weren’t too many times when we had enough runners to have had one.

“She is a nice mare, loves that ground – and she found a nice opportunity.

“All she could do was win, and Patrick was complimentary of her and has advised to take a crack at the Listed mares’ bumper at Navan in November. We’ll see how that goes, before we go hurdling.”

Jack Kennedy with Braeside
Jack Kennedy with Braeside (PA)

Jack Kennedy recorded a notable victory as he landed the Paddy Power-sponsored Cork Grand National for the first time, aboard Braeside for Gordon Elliott.

Kennedy had the 16-1 chance perfectly positioned throughout, travelling and jumping well before taking over two out and safely navigating the last for a three-length triumph from Screaming Colours.

The rider said: “He travelled and jumped great and did it well. He loved that ground, and the further the better for him. He jumps for fun and is a grand staying horse.

“The one worry I had coming here was fitness maybe, but he proved me wrong and did it well.”

Chicago Time got the better of favourite Ballywilliam Boy to win the Listed Paddy’s Rewards Club EBF Novice Hurdle by almost four lengths, at 5-1 under Sean O’Keeffe for Tipperary trainer Matty Tynan.

“That is unbelievable and great for our yard and the Hassetts (owners),” said Tynan.

“Sean gave him a beautiful ride and got him into the race nice and handy. He seemed to be going well all the way, and picked it up and went away with it.

“We’ll give him a break now and we’ll go for the Connollys Red Mills Series Final at Punchestown in April. That will be his aim, and he has earned a well deserved break after this.”

Cape Gentleman makes no mistake as Ballyadam crashes out

Cape Gentleman completed the full set when cruising to victory in the Watch Racing Free Online At Ladbrokes Beginners at Punchestown.

A useful performer on the Flat where he has a rating of 101, he was a Grade Two winner over hurdles in the Dovecote at Kempton last season and added a victory over fences at the first attempt.

He looked to face a stiff task on paper up against Henry de Bromhead’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Ballyadam, but he took a heavy fall at the very first fence.

That left Brian Hayes with the task of just negotiating the rest of the obstacles and bar a brief scare at the second-last the 7-4 second-favourite cruised home.

“It’s a great start and I couldn’t ask for any more,” said trainer Emmet Mullins.

“He had a good round of jumping, a little novicey mistake at the second-last but hopefully he should learn from that and it’ll stand to him going forward.

“It’s good to see he took to fences and he could be an exciting novice going forward for the rest of the season.

“I haven’t thought of any future plans, but he’s a high-quality horse and we’ll be looking at all the graded options anyway.

“He won his maiden hurdle on proper heavy ground here during the winter, but if we have options we’ll definitely be picking better ground.”

He went on: “It’s probably more of a worry whether we can go back left-handed again after Leopardstown last year. I’d like to forgive him the run, but time will tell.

“He has a high cruising speed so I told Brian to buck out and go as fitness was on our side and he’s a slick jumper in the main.

“Trip-wise I’d say he’ll be very versatile and I’d have no qualms about going up in trip. The Ascot Stakes was two and a half on the Flat and he was still galloping at the line (when fifth to Reshoun), he was actually caught flat-footed that day.

“He’s an exciting horse and we have plenty of options.”

Major performance delights Emmet Mullins at Galway

Crowns Major went one better for Emmet Mullins than earlier in the week when winning the €100,000 Galway Shopping Centre Handicap.

Second over two miles on Tuesday in a minor contest, the four-year-old, who won a bumper at the Punchestown Festival, was ridden by 7lb claimer Wesley Joyce.

Never far from the pace, Joyce kicked on a furlong out and once by Longbourn he won going away by two lengths.

“It was a brilliant performance, especially from Wesley here in Galway around a tricky track in a big handicap like that. He was very cool on him and we’re delighted,” said Mullins of the gelding he bought in Japan.

“The trip was definitely a worry, but to be fair they went such a slow gallop in the two-miler the other night, and he was keen – that may as well have been a mile-and-a-half race.

“It was a huge pot, a great race, and if you’re not in it you can’t win it. That’s a great big pot to get with a horse like that. The little foray to Japan is paying off in spades now!”

He added: “It was only his first ever run in a handicap on Tuesday night and I’d say the experience and everything stood to him.

“It was always the plan to target these premier handicaps with him, the November Handicap, the Cesarewitch and the likes.

“He’s an exciting horse going forward.”

Joyce said: “He jumped very smart and I sat behind the leaders as I thought they were going a bit quick. I said I’d let them go on and give my horse a breather.

“I came along, picked them up, gave him two slaps and then he just brought me home. He won with a bit in hand and he’s a very nice horse.

“It’s very good for me to win this €100,000 handicap, it’s a big race for a 7lb claimer.”

Rachael Blackmore makes Royal Ascot bow on Tuesday

Grand National winner Rachael Blackmore will be in action on day one of Royal Ascot as she teams up with Emmet Mullins’ Cape Gentleman in the Ascot Stakes.

Both horse and rider are more readily associated with the National Hunt code, with Blackmore famously becoming the first female jockey to lift the Aintree showpiece when striking aboard Minella Times in April, while Cape Gentleman is twice a winner over hurdles.

The most recent of the gelding’s triumphs came in the Grade Two Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton in February, but prior to his introduction to jumping, the chestnut was a two-length winner when contesting the Irish Cesarewitch in 2020.

Mullins is now hoping the five-year-old can recreate that Flat form when taking his place amongst a field of 20 for the two-and-a-half-mile contest.

“We’re very excited about him, fingers crossed he’ll run a good race,” he said.

“He’s gone up a fair amount in the weights since he won the Irish Cesarewitch, but he won it well and hopefully there’s a bit more improvement in him.”

Cape Gentleman has form on both good and heavy ground, but Mullins considers the former to be his ideal conditions and is confident his charge will enjoy Ascot turf currently described as good, good to firm in places.

“He won his maiden hurdle on soft or heavy ground at Punchestown, but I think he got away with it through his class,” he explained.

“I think he is a proper good ground horse, I’ve no fears about the conditions at Ascot – he should love it.”

Blackmore will ride alongside the leading Flat jockeys when she takes to the saddle at the Royal Meeting, but she is not a stranger to success on the level and enjoyed a Listed win when teaming up with Mullins’ Oriental Eagle in the Martin Molony Stakes at Limerick last year.

“She’s top class and she’s been lucky enough for me on the Flat,” Mullins said.

“We had a Listed winner last summer, so fingers crossed we can keep it going.”

The Shunter still thriving as Manifesto test awaits

The Shunter continues to thrive and surprise trainer Emmet Mullins as he nears his next big-race assignment at Aintree.

The prolific eight-year-old steps into Grade One company in Thursday’s SSS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices’ Chase, having already landed a huge pot for connections in last month’s Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Shunter bagged a £100,000 bonus with that victory, which came after he had put himself in line for it when taking Kelso’s Morebattle Hurdle 12 days earlier.

He had already won a big prize at Cheltenham in November, in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, after moving to Mullins’ County Carlow yard last summer from previous trainer John Clifford.

As The Shunter prepares for his next major challenge in Britain, Mullins reports him to be taking his exertions remarkably well.

“Yes, you wouldn’t know at home (he’s been so busy),” he said.

“He’s thriving at the moment – he looks in great order, and heavier than he did going to Kelso before the journey started.”

The Shunter has proved hugely adaptable as well as durable – winning over both hurdles and fences, at trips varying between two miles and two miles and five furlongs and on both soft and good ground.

“We haven’t come across anything like him (before) – nor did we think (to start with) he was as good as he is,” added Mullins.

The Shunter and Jordan Gainford clear the last at Cheltenham
The Shunter and Jordan Gainford clear the last at Cheltenham (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“He just keeps improving. I would argue his most impressive performance was his last run at Cheltenham.

“Hurdles or fences – either is not too much of an issue. Arguably he could be a bit better over hurdles.

“But I’d say his ideal conditions are two and half miles on nice ground – and after that hurdles or fences, we don’t really mind.

“He just seems to be in such a rich vein of form.”

The Shunter has improved three stones in nine months for Mullins, and must therefore venture out of handicap company to take on a field of Britain’s top novices.

Mullins added: “He doesn’t show a whole lot at home – and he doesn’t actually do a whole lot of work at home.

“So, I’m only seeing what everyone else is seeing on the track – and I’m happy enough to do that.

“I’m not going to force his hand at home. If he doesn’t want to show it to me, that’s OK.

“I can wait like everyone else to see him (do it on the track). Once he keeps winning, I’m happy.

“We’ve got our big handicap pots out of him – and he’s kind of gone up too far up in the handicap to be flying that route (any more).

“He keeps surprising us. Our handicap mark says we should be there – we’re probably stretching a bit going straight into Grade One company.

“But he owes us nothing – and whatever he can do is a bonus from here.”

Nicky Henderson is expecting a big run out of Fusil Raffles
Nicky Henderson is expecting a big run out of Fusil Raffles (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Leading the home defence against The Shunter is the Nicky Henderson-trained Fusil Raffles, second to stablemate Chantry House in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

Henderson said: “This is his trip, I’m pretty sure.

“He ran a great race at Cheltenham. Envoi Allen helped us a fair bit by declining to come round all the way, and did leave the door open, but you’ve got to be there to take your chance when you’re offered it.

“Chantry House beat Fusil Raffles, but ‘Fusil’ is very good in his own right – and over two and a half, this is the place for him.”

Paul Nicholls is equally hopeful about the chance of Hitman, who arrives on Merseyside a fresh horse after missing Cheltenham.

The Ditcheat trainer said in his Betfair blog: “He’s a proper young chaser who was still travelling strongly when he came down in the Grade One Scilly Isles at Sandown and then enjoyed a nice, confidence-boosting victory at Newbury early in March.

“As he’s only just five and lacks experience, we decided to bypass Cheltenham and wait for this race over a trip of two and a half miles – which is ideal.”

Umbrigado (left) gets up on the line at Newbury
Umbrigado (left) gets up on the line at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The David Pipe-trained Umbrigado has won the last three of his four outings over fences, most recently the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury.

Pipe said: “He was very good the last day at Newbury – and although this will be different, with a small but select field, the track and trip should suit him, and he definitely deserves to go there.

“He ran well the time before last at Wetherby and he showed that he stays two and a half miles last time at Newbury on better ground. He seems to be much better over a fence.

“We decided not to go to Cheltenham with him, because it was close enough after Newbury. His owners (John White and Anne Underhill) have had great success at both Cheltenham and Aintree, but we opted for Aintree because he ran well enough there before.

“He has always been a horse we thought a lot of, and the last two performances have demonstrated that. He is going to have to improve again, but he seems to be on an upward curve.”

Adagio has been a star for David Pipe this season
Adagio has been a star for David Pipe this season (David Davies/PA)

Pipe also has a leading contender for Grade One honours in the shape of Triumph Hurdle runner-up Adagio.

Already a winner at the top level in Chepstow’s Finale Hurdle, the four-year-old proved best of the British runners in the juvenile championship – and faces five rivals in the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

Pipe said: “He was perhaps a little bit of a forgotten horse in the Triumph, but he ran an absolute cracker.

“He has won around Cheltenham, and a quick track like Warwick, so I think he is versatile regarding ground and track.

“I wasn’t sure at the start whether he would be good enough to be up to Triumph Hurdle standard, but he has proved me wrong by the performances at Chepstow and at Cheltenham.”

The one to beat, however, could be Monmiral – who like Hitman did not run at Cheltenham.

Monmiral has been saved for Aintree
Monmiral has been saved for Aintree (David Davies/PA)

The French import is unbeaten in three starts for Nicholls, who said: “He’s a good example of my belief that everything in the season shouldn’t revolve around Cheltenham. We don’t buy and train horses just for the Festival.

“We don’t have to take horses there – we were not tempted by the Triumph Hurdle, and it was always the plan that Monmiral would head instead to Aintree after he won impressively on both starts for us.

“The form of his latest success at Haydock has been well and truly franked by the second and the third. While he has only ever raced on soft ground, I feel that good to soft on Thursday will be fine for him.”

Cape Gentleman on course for Aintree assignment

Emmet Mullins admits he may be taking a risk going back left-handed should Cape Gentleman run at Aintree in the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle.

The Irish Cesarewitch winner made an impressive hurdling debut at Punchestown before running no sort of a race at left-handed Leopardstown.

When he then bounced back to win impressively at Kempton in Grade Two company – going in the opposite direction – Mullins put his lifeless Leopardstown display down to a dislike of left-handed tracks but he is coming round to the view there may have been other factors at play.

“Cape Gentleman will probably go to Aintree for the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One,” said Mullins.

“Ground is probably key to him – he’s by Champs Elysees, he definitely wants a bit of nice ground.

“We are taking a bit of a risk going back left-handed after Leopardstown went against us. There were a lot of things went wrong on the day at Leopardstown.

“We are probably taking a bit of a chance going back left-handed in Aintree but I think the ground could be most of it and we won’t know until we try.”

Mount Ida scales seemingly impossible heights at Cheltenham

Mount Ida put up an amazing performance to come from last to first and claim the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Leading two out in the hands of Jack Kennedy, the 3-1 favourite gradually went clear to give Denise Foster a second Festival winner after taking over the licence at Gordon Elliott’s Cullentra House Stables.

Touching 999-1 in-running on the exchanges, Mount Ida was almost detached from the rest of the field in the early stages of the three-and-a-quarter-mile stamina test, but she got going on the final circuit.

She made stealthy progress and was cantering turning for home. Kennedy made sure she finished off the job and his mount did it in style to win by six and a half lengths from Cloudy Glen. Shantou Flyer was three-quarters of a length away in third. Hold The Note was a further 13 lengths back in fourth.

Rachael Blackmore came down on Plan Of Attack at the third-last fence when holding every chance.

Kennedy – who suffered heartbreak in the opening race of the day when Envoi Allen fell – said: “I was lucky they were going quick, she was doing her best work at the finish.

“We thought she’d stay, but I’d planned it going a bit smoother in the early part. I just had to make do what I could from there, luckily I had a very willing partner.

“We were hoping she’d run a big race, we thought she might be thereabouts if things went smoothly, but I thought my chances were out of the window after four fences.

“At the top of the hill I was fairly happy and I ended up getting there too soon.

“It was a massive thrill, especially after the day I’d had, probably one of the most satisfactory winners I’ve had.”

The Shunter won a £100,000 bonus for his connections when beating 20 rivals in the Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase.

The Emmet Mullins-trained eight-year-old scooped the windfall with a convincing display in the competitive two-and-a-half-mile affair.

Mullins selected this race from five engagements for The Shunter, who qualified for a crack at the money after landing the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso.

The County Carlow handler put faith in 7lb claimer Jordan Gainford to do the steering and he showed no pressure as he guided the well-backed 9-4 favourite to victory.

Gainford had The Shunter with the leaders throughout before he went for glory at the second-last fence. He kept on strongly up the hill to win by three lengths from Farclas. Top Notch was three and a quarter lengths back in third, with Coole Cody a head away in fourth.

Gainford said: “It’s unbelievable, something you can’t describe and it’s a feeling I’ve never had before.

“Emmet said to jump off smart and if they weren’t going hard enough to be positive but we shouldn’t have that problem.

“He thought the step up in trip would suit. He tends to do his own little thing so going to the last I let him pop then he battled hard from the last.

“I spoke to Davy Russell through the week and he filled me with confidence and I must thank Barry O’Neill (champion amateur jockey) and Colin Bowe (leading point-to-point trainer).

“I didn’t know I’d got the ride until declaration time so I owe my agent Gary Cribbin a lot. I’m 20 and ride for Colin three days a week and at Cullentra House three times a week.”

Mullins said: “It is probably no great reflection on me, but at the time I thought he had to go for a beginners’ chase at Punchestown in September. To go from there, via the Greatwood and Kelso, it’s been an unbelievable journey.

“We booked Jordan because he’s catching everyone’s attention, the owner was fairly insistent on claiming 7lb and at that Jordan was the only option. He showed why today.

“We went to Kelso as I thought it would be easier on the horse than the County Hurdle here, and Kelso was a huge pot in its own right.

“We got that one right and it’s just fallen into place since. You wouldn’t know how far he could go, what we see on the track is as wise as I can be, he doesn’t set the world alight at home but we don’t ask him to do much, the less the better.

“I wouldn’t know what’s next, we haven’t thought beyond this, but I’m sure his owner will pull another rabbit out of the hat.”

Mrs Milner was another for Ireland in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle.

The six-year-old, trained in County Wexford by Paul Nolan, asserted on the run to the line to land the three-mile stamina test in comfortable fashion.

Redford Road and Potters Hedger were the pace-setters and there were plenty in with chances as the big field approached the penultimate flight.

Mrs Milner was produced through the pack to lead before the last. Despite the attentions of a loose horse, the 12-1 chance kept on strongly to win by five lengths from The Bosses Oscar.

Come On Teddy was half a length back in third, with another length and a half to Milliner in fourth.

Nolan said: “That was brilliant – I can’t believe the ease with which she’s done it.

“She got into a bit of bother at a few different stages of the race. It wasn’t Bryan’s fault, it was just the way things panned out. I was saying a few swear words here I can tell you!

“It was unbelievable the way she ran up the hill. I can’t believe it, to be honest.”

He went on: “She is such a tough little mare. After the fall she had in Leopardstown the last day, a lot of horses would have their head down for a week, but she just bounced straight back.

“We ran her over the wrong trip the last day, but we decided to go that way to keep her against the mares. As it’s turned out it’s probably worked out well as she might have ended up with a few more pounds on her back if she’d run in the longer race and run well.”

Nolan, saddling his first Festival winner since Noble Prince landed the inaugural running of what is now the Marsh Novices’ Chase in 2011, decided against crossing the Irish Sea this year with his solitary runner.

He added: “It’s disappointing not to be there, but it sounds like you can’t do much anyway and we’ll enjoy it the best we can from home.

“We were jumping up and down here watching the race and nearly went through the skylight!

“We’ve had a few placed horses and things since Noble Prince won. We’re lucky to have some very good owners, who are keeping us afloat.”

The Shunter bags £100,000 bonus with Cheltenham strike

The Shunter won a £100,000 bonus for his connections when beating 20 rivals in the Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Emmet Mullins-trained eight-year-old scooped the windfall with a convincing display in the competitive two-and-a-half-mile affair.

Mullins selected this race from five engagements for The Shunter, who qualified for a crack at the money after landing the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso.

The County Carlow handler put faith in 7lb claimer Jordan Gainford to do the steering and he showed no pressure as he guided the well-backed 9-4 favourite to victory.

Gainford had The Shunter with the leaders throughout before he went for glory at the second-last fence. He kept on strongly up the hill to win by three lengths from Farclas. Top Notch was three and a quarter lengths back in third, with Coole Cody a head away in fourth.

Gainford said: “It’s unbelievable, something you can’t describe and it’s a feeling I’ve never had before.

“Emmet said to jump off smart and if they weren’t going hard enough to be positive but we shouldn’t have that problem.

“He thought the step up in trip would suit. He tends to do his own little thing so going to the last I let him pop then he battled hard from the last.

“I spoke to Davy Russell through the week and he filled me with confidence and I must thank Barry O’Neill (champion amateur jockey) and Colin Bowe (leading point-to-point trainer).

“I didn’t know I’d got the ride until declaration time so I owe my agent Gary Cribbin a lot. I’m 20 and ride for Colin three days a week and at Cullentra House three times a week.”

Mullins said: “It is probably no great reflection on me, but at the time I thought he had to go for a beginners’ chase at Punchestown in September. To go from there, via the Greatwood and Kelso, it’s been an unbelievable journey.

“We booked Jordan because he’s catching everyone’s attention, the owner was fairly insistent on claiming 7lb and at that Jordan was the only option. He showed why today.

“We went to Kelso as I thought it would be easier on the horse than the County Hurdle here, and Kelso was a huge pot in its own right.

“We got that one right and it’s just fallen into place since. You wouldn’t know how far he could go, what we see on the track is as wise as I can be, he doesn’t set the world alight at home but we don’t ask him to do much, the less the better.

“I wouldn’t know what’s next, we haven’t thought beyond this, but I’m sure his owner will pull another rabbit out of the hat.”

Mrs Milner was another for Ireland in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle.

The six-year-old, trained in County Wexford by Paul Nolan, asserted on the run to the line to land the three-mile stamina test in comfortable fashion.

Redford Road and Potters Hedger were the pace-setters and there were plenty in with chances as the big field approached the penultimate flight.

Mrs Milner was produced through the pack to lead before the last. Despite the attentions of a loose horse, the 12-1 chance kept on strongly to win by five lengths from The Bosses Oscar.

Come On Teddy was half a length back in third, with another length and a half to Milliner in fourth.

Nolan said: “That was brilliant – I can’t believe the ease with which she’s done it.

“She got into a bit of bother at a few different stages of the race. It wasn’t Bryan’s fault, it was just the way things panned out. I was saying a few swear words here I can tell you!

“It was unbelievable the way she ran up the hill. I can’t believe it, to be honest.”

He went on: “She is such a tough little mare. After the fall she had in Leopardstown the last day, a lot of horses would have their head down for a week, but she just bounced straight back.

“We ran her over the wrong trip the last day, but we decided to go that way to keep her against the mares. As it’s turned out it’s probably worked out well as she might have ended up with a few more pounds on her back if she’d run in the longer race and run well.”

Nolan, saddling his first Festival winner since Noble Prince landed the inaugural running of what is now the Marsh Novices’ Chase in 2011, decided against crossing the Irish Sea this year with his solitary runner.

He added: “It’s disappointing not to be there, but it sounds like you can’t do much anyway and we’ll enjoy it the best we can from home.

“We were jumping up and down here watching the race and nearly went through the skylight!

“We’ve had a few placed horses and things since Noble Prince won. We’re lucky to have some very good owners, who are keeping us afloat.”

Mount Ida – another for Ireland – put up an amazing performance to come from last to first and claim the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.

Leading two out in the hands of Jack Kennedy, the 3-1 favourite gradually went clear to give Denise Foster a second Festival winner after taking over the licence at Gordon Elliott’s Cullentra House Stables.

Mount Ida was almost detached from the rest of the field in the early stages of the three-and-a-quarter-mile stamina test, but she got going on the final circuit.

She made stealthy progress and was cantering turning for home. Kennedy made sure she finished off the job and his mount did it in style to win by six and a half lengths from Cloudy Glen. Shantou Flyer was three-quarters of a length away in third. Hold The Note was a further 13 lengths back in fourth.

Rachael Blackmore came down on Plan Of Attack at the third-last fence when holding every chance.

Kennedy – who suffered heartbreak in the opening race of the day when Envoi Allen fell – said: “I was lucky they were going quick, she was doing her best work at the finish.

“We thought she’d stay, but I’d planned it going a bit smoother in the early part. I just had to make do what I could from there, luckily I had a very willing partner.

“We were hoping she’d run a big race, we thought she might be thereabouts if things went smoothly, but I thought my chances were out of the window after four fences.

“At the top of the hill I was fairly happy and I ended up getting there too soon.

“It was a massive thrill, especially after the day I’d had, probably one of the most satisfactory winners I’ve had.”

Mullins to make late decision on Festival assignment for The Shunter

The Shunter’s Cheltenham Festival target will be a last-minute call as his connections eye the prospect of a £100,000 bonus up for grabs.

Emmet Mullins’ charge has several options over hurdles and fences next week, and could not be arriving in better form.

He won the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso on Saturday, a valuable race in its own right – but the extra incentive offered by the Kelso executives mean Mullins is taking more time than most to decide on the right race next.

“Everything we ask him to do he keeps coming up trumps,” the County Carlow trainer said of his Greatwood Hurdle winner.

“He has just been a revelation. He has improved far and beyond what we expected. I really can’t put my finger on what it is.

“The Morebattle is a great race to win in its own right, but the bonus on offer to him is great – and hopefully we can give it a bit of a rattle.

“He has got the five entries, but I couldn’t tell you what discipline he is going to run in, let alone which race.

“We will wait as long as we can before deciding and keep a close check on the forecast. I could have a favoured race for him today, then it flip tomorrow.

Cape Gentleman (red/black) is unlikely to run at Cheltenham
Cape Gentleman (red/black) is unlikely to run at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“There will be a few deciding factors, and we will bounce ideas off a few people then make a decision.”

Mullins’ Cape Gentleman, a game winner of the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton, is less likely to make the journey, though.

“Everything suited him at Kempton,” he said.

“The good ground and going right-handed probably did him no harm as well.

“Jonjo (O’Neill junior) said he was very straightforward on the day. He is exciting, and it is good to get him back on track.

“He is probably unlikely to go to Cheltenham, though you never say never. I’d say it’s 70-30 that he doesn’t go. I’d imagine he will go to Fairyhouse next, because it gives us a couple of weeks longer, then on to Punchestown.”

Monday Musings: Tritonic to be the Spring King?

I was speaking to Micky Hammond a couple of weeks ago and he declared: “Winter has finished!”. I thought maybe he was rather precipitous as there were still great drifts of snow around much of the North of England and points further on, but he must have had divine inspiration from somewhere, writes Tony Stafford.

Often the Kempton Saturday meeting in late February has offered better ground than anywhere else for ages and as such provided a nice lead-in for Cheltenham Festival runners. February 27 2021 proved no exception.

Through this most depressing of winters, denied visits to the racecourse and resigned to watching horses slogging through the mud day after day on television, Kempton’s jumps track always provides the kindest of surfaces. No wonder Nicky Henderson opposed plans for its closure so vigorously.

On Saturday the three-mile handicap chase, which has had many identities, but was staged under the Close Brothers banner this year, was run in five minutes 51 seconds, one second FASTER than standard time.

Clondaw Castle was the meritorious winner. Trained by Tom George and ridden by Jonathan Burke, he led home a field of 17. Runner-up Erick Le Rouge, a 33-1 shot, had been successful on similarly fast ground at the corresponding meeting two years ago in a handicap hurdle while on that same card, Southfield Spirit, a faller when favourite for the Close Brothers, won the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle for Paul Nicholls.

Micky must have been slightly irritated at the accuracy of his prediction as he chose the same weekend for the return to hurdling of stable star Cornerstone Lad in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell yesterday. The ground had dried out appreciably there too and Cornerstone Lad, a proper mud-lark, was pulled up.

I always loved the late February meeting at Kempton which used to be a two-day affair on the Friday and Saturday. I know my memory plays tricks these days but I definitely remember one year (not sure which one) when at least half a dozen of the Kempton winners (and possibly a couple more) went on to success at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Adonis Hurdle will always be a favourite and its annual arrival unfailingly reminds me of the 2007 renewal which led to a 14-year connection with Raymond Tooth. Sadly Raymond’s association with racing has for now been curtailed but I will always be grateful to Punjabi and to Derek Hatter and Brod Munro-Wilson whose input that day hastened the union.

Few winners of the race, which in 2007 and 2008 provided Nicky Henderson with the 2009 and 2010 (Binocular) Champion Hurdle winners, were more impressive than Saturday’s ten-length Adonis victor Tritonic, a fifth Adonis score for Alan King, equalling Henderson’s tally.

Tritonic, a 99-rated Flat racer, had been more workmanlike than spectacular in the Ascot mud five weeks earlier when a strong-finishing one-length victor from the Gary Moore-trained Casa Loupi. That horse, a far inferior performer on the level but still a tough campaigner, was again the main rival on Saturday.

Coming to the last flight it appeared that there would probably be only a slightly wider margin between them but once over the obstacle, Tritonic took off and sprinted away up the run-in in the manner of a Goshen in an easing-down ten-length exhibition.

Cheltenham has a habit of fooling us with its ground and many times I’ve been in a less than successful going prediction business, certainly not in the Hammond league anyway. At various Cheltenham preview nights I’ve suggested it will be impossible for it to be anything but soft and it often wasn’t. I don’t think it matters for Tritonic, who is down to 7-2 for the juvenile championship.

I feel I have to change my Triumph allegiance, with French Aseel showing no sign of a second run having transferred into the Willie Mullins team. Gordon Elliott still has a strong grip on the race with 2-1 shot Zanahiyr and third-best Quilixios (6-1) but he is making all the wrong headlines after the picture of him talking on the phone while sitting on a dead horse on his gallop started doing the rounds. Both the Irish authorities and the BHA are understandably on the Elliott case.

In these more sensitive times in terms of animal welfare it is little wonder that social media has been so much on this matter. I’ve been told that the belated release of the grotesque image many months after it was captured last summer is because of the ire of a scorned former paramour of the trainer! Whatever the truth of that, it’s a great story. As Mr Bolger instructed when I first contacted him back in the 1980’s: “No names!”

In those days in Ireland you never knew who was listening in. Nowadays there’s always someone taking a picture and it has an ever-ready target audience. No doubt in no time at all there will be a million “likes” of which 999,000 of them will be utter “dislikes”.

Anyway, I digress. Tritonic is a reminder of Alan King’s talent as a jumps trainer which to some extent has been slightly eroded in the public understanding because of his equal facility on the Flat. Considering he doesn’t have easy access to the top pedigrees but instead needs to develop his own talent, that success is even more meritorious.

Tritonic was a case in point. Bred by Kirsten Rausing, he was originally sold as a foal at Tatts December sale for 14,000gns to Tony O’Callaghan’s Tally Ho Stud. Eighteen months later at the lesser of the two Tatts Breeze-ups, with the benefit of the Tally Ho expertise, he realised almost a 300% increase at 55k.

He might not have seemed the obvious “breezer” in pedigree terms. He was by the German Derby winner – by 11 lengths! – Sea The Moon who won four of five career starts with his only defeat coming as a 2-1 on shot in his last run in the Grosser Preis von Baden. The four-year-old winner there, Ivanhowe, was later a multiple Group 1 winner in Australia.

King didn’t waste any time with his May purchase. Tritonic had his first start in July as an unconsidered 50-1 outsider for a Haydock 7f novice race and, bar taking a false step in the closing stages, could have been even nearer than fourth place, less than a length behind the winner.

He built on that with wins at Ffos Las in August and Newbury in September and was only a 6-1 chance when fifth to Max Vega in the Group 3 Zetland Stakes over 10 furlongs at Newmarket in October. Placed in four of his five attempts – including first time out at Royal Ascot – in good-class handicaps as a three-year-old, he had the benefit of experience without being over-raced. So when the trainer turned Tritonic to hurdling he already looked the finished article.

With two Triumph Hurdle winners, Penzance and Katchit - who as a five-year-old followed up in the Champion Hurdle - to his credit, King certainly knows what’s needed and, after welcoming his winner on Saturday, there was only one race on his mind.

Another of the Kempton winners that interests me is Cape Gentleman who travelled over from Ireland to win the Dovecote Hurdle in determined style after a tussle with the Dan Skelton-trained Calico, a decent horse in Germany before making an easy winning UK debut at Ludlow.

Cape Gentleman started out in the Nicolas Clement stable after being sourced as a yearling at Arqana’s Deauville sale by the trainer and his sales associate Tina Rau for €20k. After three runs and one win he was back at the company’s Saint-Cloud venue where Emmet Mullins bought him for €80k on behalf of owner Margaret O’Rourke.

It’s uncanny that Tritonic and Cape Gentleman had such similar increases in value between sales and are rated 1lb apart on the Flat: second time out for Mullins in the Irish Cesarewitch at The Curragh last September Cape Gentleman showed tremendous stamina and determination to win by a couple of lengths in a field of 20 after which his mark was increased from 85 to 100.

First time over hurdles he won well at Punchestown but then, in Grade 1 company over two and three-quarter miles at Leopardstown’s Dublin Festival three weeks ago, he was pulled up. That he could recover from those exertions and put in such a good performance within such a short time and back at two miles is testimony both to the horse’s constitution and his trainer’s skill.

Cape Gentleman has two Cheltenham engagements and is a 25-1 chance for both. With the run guarantee in many places, I reckon there will be worse each-way shots at considerably shorter odds on the day. Just two weeks to go.

I’d actually been asked to go to a friend’s house to do an on-the-day hosting of one of the days at the Festival for some of his pals who play for a Premier League team and love their racing. That was great at any rate until spoil-sport Mrs S pointed out that it was still illegal – and no doubt one of the lads would live stream the event, ensuring big fines all round. I had regretfully to decline.

- TS

Cape Gentleman conquers Dovecote rivals

Emmet Mullins will ponder his Cheltenham Festival options for Cape Gentleman, after he showed plenty of grit in the hands of Jonjo O’Neill Jr to battle back and deny Calico in a thrilling finish to the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton.

The five-year-old, who landed the Irish Cesarewitch on his last Flat outing before making a winning hurdling debut at Punchestown, blotted his copybook on his second outing in this sphere when pulled up over two and three-quarter miles at Leopardstown earlier this month.

However, dropping back to two miles suited the Champs Elysees gelding, who injected some speed into a modest early pace and went to the front with over half a mile to run.

Calico loomed large before a tardy leap at the penultimate flight briefly halted his momentum. However, he jumped the last better and headed Cape Gentleman (5-2) on the run to the line, only for O’Neill Jr’s mount to find extra reserves.

His stamina kicked in and the partnership ultimately denied Calico by three-quarters of a length. Lunar Sovereign was a further seven and a half lengths back in third.

The winning jockey said: “I thought Harry (Cobden) might just give me a go at the last as Calico has a lot of Flat form, but I didn’t want to be a sitting duck. He has battled hard. He won a Cheltenham trial today and he’d be entitled to go to Cheltenham.

“It was a very good training performance. He has only had the two runs, but he ran poorly the last day, so that’s why he dropped back in trip, which helped him.

“He loved the (good) ground and was very straightforward today. He battled hard after the last and I’m delighted with his performance.

“Emmet said he was in good form at home. I suppose they can have blips every now and again and the considerable drop back in trip definitely helped.

“As for Cheltenham, I’m not sure he is in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but he is in the Albert Bartlett and the Ballymore, and it looks like the Ballymore would be an obvious one.”

Gentleman may be set for Dublin Festival

Emmet Mullins is considering an appearance at next weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival for his exciting prospect Cape Gentleman.

Runner-up to the Willie Mullins-trained Mt Leinster on his Irish debut at Listowel last autumn, the French recruit subsequently went one better in the Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh.

The Champs Elysees gelding made a smart start to his hurdling career at Punchestown last month – and could step up to Grade One level for the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors 50k Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff’ Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday.

“Cape Gentleman is entered in the Grade One two-mile-six-furlong novice hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival,” said Mullins

“He had been entered in the Lawlor’s in Naas, but we missed that because I just wasn’t happy.”

The trainer’s confidence was boosted by the impressive success of Cape Gentleman’s stable companion Noble Yeats in a bumper at Thurles on Wednesday.

A £75,000 purchase from the point-to-point field, the six-year-old could finish only third on his bumper debut at Limerick, but raised his game to win by 19 lengths on his second start at Thurles this week.

Mullins added: “Noble Yeats was beaten at Limerick over Christmas, and I just wasn’t sure what was going on, so we sat on our hands for a while – but it looks like all systems go now.

“We were very disappointed at Limerick, but I would say on the day it was a good bumper. He had been showing us plenty at home, but I was doubting myself coming (to Thurles) and he was good and impressive – I couldn’t ask for any more.

“It was just good to get that win,  and he showed his true colours; he’s an exciting horse for the future, and when we go jumping we could be looking forward to better things.”

Chatham Street Lad headlines Fairyhouse entries

Cheltenham heroes Chatham Street Lad and The Shunter could lock horns in the Dan & Joan Moore Memorial Chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday.

The Mick Winters-trained trained Chatham Street Lad was a brilliant winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Prestbury Park last month, while The Shunter won the Greatwood Hurdle in November for Emmet Mullins.

The pair are among 25 remaining contenders for this weekend’s 75,000 euros contest, with Joseph O’Brien’s Front View and Impact Factor from Jessica Harrington’s yard potentially bidding to follow up recent course wins.

Gordon Elliott has left in six horses, including Chosen Mate, winner of the Grand Annual at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, while Willie Mullins has both Fan De Blues and Pont Aven.

Noel Meade’s Daly Tiger made an impressive start to the current campaign at Punchestown in November, but disappointed at Fairyhouse on his latest appearance.

Meade said: “Daly Tiger may run in the Dan Moore at Fairyhouse on Saturday. We’ll see how things progress this week.

“I don’t know why he ran so poorly the last day. Nothing went right for him and we’ll just have to put a line through it.”

Also featuring on Saturday’s card is the ITM Virtual Stallion Trail Hurdle, for which Gordon Elliott has entered Quilixios.

An impressive winner at both Punchestown and Down Royal, he tops a bumper entry of 17 along with the Willie Mullins-trained Youmdor.

Cape Gentleman makes his mark on hurdling bow

Irish Cesarewitch winner Cape Gentleman made an impressive start to his career over hurdles at Punchestown.

An 80,000 euro purchase out Nicolas Clement’s yard in France, the four-year-old filled the runner-up spot behind the high-class Mt Leinster on his Irish debut for Emmet Mullins at Listowel in September, before going one better at the Curragh the following month.

The Champs Elysees gelding was the 5-4 favourite for the Gift A Donation This Year Maiden Hurdle – and bar one mistake in the back straight, jumped accurately in the hands of Brian Hayes.

Petibonome and Homme D’un Soir tracked the leader into the home straight, but Cape Gentleman ultimately proved far too good, coasting clear under his motionless rider on the run-in for a two-length victory.

“That was great – it was great to get him on the board on his first run over hurdles,” said Mullins.

“He jumped well for most of it, I missed the mistake so I must go back and look at that.

“Brian seemed very happy – he’s over the moon with him.”

Betfair make Cape Gentleman a 20-1 shot for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Mullins added: “We’ll have a look at the programme book now. He’s hopefully a horse to look forward to in the spring.

“I was very sceptical if he’d handle the heavy, winter ground today. I had a Leopardstown maiden hurdle at Christmas in the back of my head, but that’s knocked on the head now.

“I’m not sure where we’ll go now, but we’ll look at a step up in grade and he should be able to cope with it.”

Cape claims clear-cut Irish Cesarewitch verdict

Cape Gentleman ran out an emphatic winner of the Paddy Power Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh.

Formerly trained in France by Nicolas Clement, the four-year-old was snapped up for 80,000 euros by Emmet Mullins last October and made an encouraging start for his new connections when runner-up to Mt Leinster at Listowel last month.

Ronan Whelan’s mount was a 15-2 chance for his handicap debut and after being ridden positively from the off, he took over the lead from his stablemate Sneaky Getaway early in the home straight.

The result was never really in doubt thereafter as Cape Gentleman readily extended clear, passing the post two lengths ahead of 100-1 shot Aircraft Carrier, with De Name Escapes Me making late gains to finish third.

Hot favourite Royal Illusion passed the post in sixth, but was later disqualified after rider Joey Sheridan failed to weigh in.

Mullins said of the winner: “We got this horse a year ago and it’s all worked out well. We had him ready to go during the summer and he just met with a little hiccup and it was great to get the run into him at Listowel before coming here.

“My only worry was that he hadn’t ran for a year and it was just 16 days back from the Listowel run. It was a quick enough turnaround considering that he hadn’t run for a year.

“This is a huge race to win. We’ll see what the handicapper will do now. He was primarily bought to jump hurdles and I’m sure he will do that at some stage.

“We have options now and we are in a good place.”

The stewards inquired into Sheridan’s failure to weigh in and suspended the rider for two days.

John McConnell’s A Case Of You impressed in the Group Three Jebel Ali Racecourse And Stables Anglesey Stakes.

A Case Of You after winning at the Curragh
A Case Of You after winning at the Curragh (Alan Magee/PA)

Third on his Bellewstown debut before opening his account at Down Royal last month, the 6-1 shot successfully graduated to Pattern class with a one-and-a-quarter-length verdict over Lipizzaner under Gary Carroll.

McConnell said: “That’s my first Curragh winner as usually if I have a good horse, I stay away from the Curragh because the competition is so good, but he justified coming here and was impressive.

“It’s my first Group winner on the Flat. I doubt if he will run again this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets faster and faster and the dream could be something like a Commonwealth Cup (at Royal Ascot).”

Helvic Dream (6-1) continued Noel Meade’s excellent run of form with a comprehensive victory in the Novi IT Services International Stakes.

Third behind the reopposing Sonnyboyliston over the course and distance four weeks ago, the three-year-old comprehensively turned that form around to claim Group Three honours under Colin Keane.

“I thought he was good all year, but things just haven’t gone right for him with one thing and another,” said Meade.

“I don’t know where he will go next, and there is the possibility we could travel with him. He’ll stick to Stakes races now. We have schooled him over barrels, but that will probably go out the window.”

Keane had earlier partnered his first winner for Aidan O’Brien aboard 2-1 favourite Khartoum in the Curragh Where Champions Are Made Maiden, before Paddy Twomey and Billy Lee teamed up to land the Listed Staffordstown Stud Stakes with 10-1 shot Fantasy Lady.

Patrick Mullins steered 1-3 favourite Mt Leinster to victory for his father Willie in the Chapmans Kildare Amateur Riders Derby.

“This fellow has schooled over fences and he’s very good, so I’d imagine that is going to be on the cards for him,” said the rider.

“I was able to twist Willie’s arm and get him to run here rather than the Cesarewitch.”