Tag Archive for: Gala Marceau

Lossiemouth poised for starring role on final day of Punchestown

All eyes at Punchestown on Saturday will be on Lossiemouth in the Coolmore N.H. Sires Bolshoi Ballet Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle.

The Willie Mullins-trained grey has been beaten only once in eight runs under rules, capping last season with a Cheltenham-Punchestown Festival double at Grade One level.

She reappeared this year in running away with the Unibet Hurdle at Cheltenham on Trials day, after which she returned to the Cotswolds to take the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle by three lengths, with connections having resisted the temptation to go for the Champion Hurdle.

Rich Ricci’s charge has not run since, as she was not entered at Aintree, and lines up at Punchestown with a huge reputation to maintain.

Mullins is happy with her build up, saying: “She’s in good order, she comes here in good form. I hoping she’ll run to her rating and hopefully that will be enough.”

Opposing Lossiemouth will be two horses in the blue and white silks of Kenny Alexander, one of whom is the Henry de Bromhead-trained Telmesomethinggirl.

The nine-year-old was last seen finishing a valiant second to Lossiemouth at the Cheltenham Festival and will likely run her final race at Punchestown as she has since scanned in foal to Blue Bresil.

“She’s a wonderful mare and she’s actually in foal to Blue Bresil as we speak, so this is almost certainly her last race,” said Peter Molony, racing manager to Alexander.

“She’s up against a monster in Lossiemouth, she’s a Grade Two winner and she’s been second in a Grade One and we’d desperately love her to win a Grade One on her last run.

“It’s probably a tall order, but if she’s in the first two or three we’ll be absolutely delighted.

“She was incredibly unlucky a few years ago here when she got brought down, Rachael (Blackmore) felt she had the winning of the race that day.

“We’d really, really love her to win a Grade One, it would mean an awful lot, but as long as she comes home safe – she owes us nothing.”

Alexander also owns Gala Marceau, the only horse to ever beat Lossiemouth when the two stablemates met in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown in February last year.

That run was part of a strong juvenile campaign last term, but the five-year-old has not hit the same heights this time, finishing third in both the Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle and the Quevaga Mares’ Hurdle and then sixth at the Festival.

“She’s been a bit disappointing for us this year, she was wonderful last year and she won two Grade Ones” said Molony.

“They seem happy with her at Willie’s, so fingers crossed she coming back into herself now.

“It’s in there somewhere, but it was Willie who said himself that these juveniles often find it hard the following season, so maybe she’ll just need this season and come back next year.”

The rest of the field is trained by either De Bromhead or Mullins, with the former also set to saddle Cheltenham third Hispanic Moon and the latter represented by Ashroe Diamond.

Alexander then has a real chance with Kargese in the Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, run over two miles at Grade One level.

The four-year-old, trained by Mullins, has had a good season so far when never finishing out of the top two in four runs at graded level.

A Grade One victory in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle was followed by two second-placed runs in the Triumph at Cheltenham and the Boodles Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.

“She’s been incredible, she’s obviously got an unbelievable engine,” said Molony of the filly.

“She was galloping all over the winners in both the Triumph and at Aintree, she just ran out of steam a bit as she’s quite buzzy.

“It takes a while to try to get her settled but she was better in Aintree, she still pulled quite hard so to have gone the way she has, she must have a serious engine.”

Mullins and Alexander also team up in the race with Miss Manzor, who takes a step up to Grade One level after finishing third in the Grade Two O’Driscoll’s Irish Whiskey Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse early last month.

Molony said of the bay: “They seem very happy with her in Closutton and if she ran into a place we’d be over the moon.”

The winner of the Fairyhouse race, Bottler’secret, lines up for Gavin Cromwell and Joseph O’Brien’s Nurburgring is also among the more fancied runners.

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Hispanic Moon rises to the top, as Gala Marceau disappoints

Dual Grade One winner Gala Marceau finished a disappointing third as Hispanic Moon claimed top honours in the Bet Victor Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown.

Gala Marceau locked horns with fellow Willie Mullins-trained mare Lossiemouth on several occasions last season, coming out on top at the Dublin Racing Festival before her esteemed stablemate turned the tables in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and confirmed the form at Punchestown.

Gala Marceau did though round off her campaign with a top-level win in France, and while she was beaten by another Mullins mare in Ashroe Diamond on her return to action at Doncaster late last month, she was widely expected to get back on the winning trail at Grade Three level on home soil.

Ridden by Paul Townend, the 2-7 shot travelled well for much of the of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, but was being ridden along before the home turn and soon emptied in the ultra-testing conditions.

Saylavee, also trained by Mullins, did her best to make a race of it with Henry de Bromhead’s 11-2 chance Hispanic Moon, but the latter kicked eight lengths clear in the hands of Darragh O’Keeffe.

Coral reacted by trimming Hispanic Moon’s odds for the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival to 16-1 from 50-1, while easing Gala Marceau to 12-1 from 7-1. Lossiemouth is the 1-2 favourite.

Robbie Power, the winning trainer’s race planner, said: “That was great. She was impressive here back in November and I don’t know what went wrong at Christmas, there was no real excuse for her, she just didn’t run her race for some reason.

“That was much more like it today and Darragh knew himself after jumping two hurdles that she was back to herself. She was a different mare, she travelled and jumped really well. She winged the last and went from there to the winning post with her two ears pricked.

“Hopefully there is a bit more in the locker. She’s in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and we’ll see how she comes out of this, we might take a punt.

“You’d have to be tempted after that, she’s beaten Saylavee a lot easier than she did here back in November.”

Of the market leader, Mullins said: “Paul thought she ran a bit keen and she was very disappointing, especially after her promising run in Doncaster.

“I haven’t seen anything wrong with her yet, but she was blowing quite hard when she came in. Unfortunately it’s one of those things.”

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Gala Marceau to spearhead Alexander’s Mares’ Hurdle squad

Owner Kenny Alexander is set to unleash a two-pronged assault on the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle, with both Gala Marceau and Telmesomethinggirl attempting to add to Honeysuckle’s two famous victories in the Cheltenham Festival contest.

Trained by Willie Mullins, Gala Marceau has just stablemates Lossiemouth and Ashroe Diamond ahead of her in the ante-post betting for the Grade One event and was runner-up in the Triumph Hurdle at Prestbury Park 12 months ago.

She finished third when making her seasonal return at Doncaster recently, but tasted top level success over two and a half miles in Auteuil’s Prix Alain du Breil last May and connections feel a return to further can see her improve on her Town Moor reappearance.

“We were very happy with her and Danny (Mullins, jockey) said she took a bit of a blow after the last,” said Alexander’s racing manager Peter Molony.

“He thought he would definitely have been second and closer to the winner without that and he wasn’t overly hard on her to try to get second as the big day is in a few weeks time.

“The step up in trip is going to help her, she stayed the extra distance well last year in Auteuil and we really think that will play to her strengths.”

Telmesomethinggirl may be as big as 25-1 in the betting, but Molony has been encouraged by reports from trainer Henry de Bromhead since she finished second at Naas last month.

Rachael Blackmore celebrates after winning at Cheltenham aboard Telmesomethinggirl
Rachael Blackmore celebrates after winning at Cheltenham aboard Telmesomethinggirl (Michael Steele/PA)

The nine-year-old is already a Cheltenham Festival winner having been part of De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore’s respective six-timers at the showpiece meeting in 2021, winning the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

She was also in the process of running a huge race the following year in the Mares’ Hurdle before being brought down two out and having spent a year struggling over the larger obstacles, is back at the discipline in which she is most proficient.

“We were over the moon with her performance at Naas. The first day she ran (at Leopardstown) she was still rather gross and I think as she has got older, Henry has found it harder to get her fit,” added Molony.

“Last year was a complete waste of a year and she just didn’t take to the fences, that is a year that can be scratched.

“Henry and his team are very happy with her and I think if she is back to her best, she is going to give all the other ladies something to think about. She’s a very high-class mare in her own right at her best.

“Rachael came in and said it was a case of how far, not if (when she ran in the race previously) and if she gets back to that level she could take a lot of beating – she is certainly a wonderful each-way price.”

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Gala Marceau under consideration for Doncaster assignment

Dual Grade One scorer Gala Marceau could make her belated return at Doncaster later this month, as connections have their sights set on the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The five-year-old was a star performer for trainer Willie Mullins and owner Kenny Alexander last season, finishing no worse than third in five starts and tasting big-race success at both the Dublin Racing Festival and at Auteuil in the Prix Alain du Breil.

She was also a fine second to stablemate and regular foe Lossiemouth in the Triumph Hurdle before finishing a place further back in third behind that rival at the Punchestown Festival.

Having finished off her season excelling when upped to two and a half miles in France, connections believe the Mares’ Hurdle over a similar distance is the ideal target for the Cheltenham Festival in March.

And Gala Marceau could use a well-trodden path to Prestbury Park by running in Doncaster’s Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle on January 27, a race Mullins has won with both Annie Power (2014) and Vroum Vroum Mag (2017) previously.

“We will possibly see her out towards the end of the month and there is a nice race at Doncaster that is being discussed,” said Peter Molony, racing manager to owner Alexander. “It’s a nice mares’ race, a Grade Two I think it is.

“The main aim would be the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham – that’s what we are thinking.

“The extra half a mile she will get at Cheltenham seemed to really play to her strengths at Auteuil and she was very impressive that day. We were all blown away to be honest.”

Gala Marceau won two Grade Ones last season
Gala Marceau won two Grade Ones last season (Gary Carson/PA)

Alexander’s colours have of course been carried to Mares’ Hurdle success twice in the past by the great four-time Festival winner Honeysuckle.

Gala Marceau may struggle to match Honeysuckle’s exceptional career CV, but Molony feels she has more than done enough to advertise her quality during her first season with Mullins and has shown signs over the summer there could be plenty more to come.

He continued: “I’m not sure she will ever fill those boots, but she has done us proud so far and won us two Grade Ones.

“She’s not the biggest in the world, but she is as tough as nails and she has definitely grown with us over the summer and strengthened a bit by the time she went back to Willie’s. So we are very hopeful she can progress again.”

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Gala Marceau provides Mullins with Auteuil glory

Gala Marceau ran out a convincing winner of the Prix Alain du Breil at Auteuil to give Willie Mullins a third win in the big four-year-old Grade One.

Mullins also ran Zarak The Brave in the race and the betting suggested he was the better fancied of the pair but having been settled in the rear by Paul Townend, he could only run on into third, ultimately beaten a long way.

Gala Marceau was ridden by Danny Mullins, as she has been all season which had already been fruitful.

She beat stablemate Lossiemouth at the Dublin Racing Festival before finishing second to that rival in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and third at Punchestown but with that one staying in Closutton this weekend, she was able to return to winning ways.

Losange Bleu, the favourite, set out to make all but Gala Marceau always looked to be travelling strongly and when she jumped upsides at the last the race was over in a matter of strides as she pulled seven lengths clear.

Mullins has previously won the race with Diakali in 2013 and Footpad three years later.

Ireland’s champion trainer had earlier been out of luck with Franco De Port and Carefully Selected in the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris having also drawn a blank on Saturday.

Trainer Willie Mullins was winning the Prix Alain du Breil for the third time
Trainer Willie Mullins was winning the Prix Alain du Breil for the third time (Brian Lawless/PA)

Speaking to Sky Sports Racing Willie Mullins said: “A winner at last!

“We were getting worried but we had no excuses for any of the others, they just weren’t good enough on the day.

“This mare was a revelation. She has been improving all season. I said to Danny just get her settled and get her coming home. Once he got her settled he just kept counting down the furlongs and when she took over the race was over.

“It’s a big improvement for her and a notable scalp too because there was a lot of confidence behind the favourite so we’re very pleased. Zarak The Brave didn’t jump well enough in the first mile, he didn’t have the experience.

“We’ll be back and it’s nice to have one on the board.”

Danny Mullins said: “I’m lucky enough to be a small part of a very big team and to get another Grade One winner on the board is fantastic, this is the last really big weekend of the jumps season.

“The mare has been very good to me this season, she ran very well at Cheltenham and she showed how tough she was today.

“She jumped fantastic down the back which enabled me to save a bit for the home turn and she hit the line very strong, she wasn’t stopping.

“She has won a Grade One in Ireland, ran with a lot of credit at the big festivals and to come here and win, we’re delighted. Next season could be bright for her as well.

“It’s fantastic to win here. For me it’s all about winning the Grade Ones and to do that in Ireland, England, America and now here – I might try a few places further afield now, it’s all about enjoying it.”

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Gala Marceau bidding to settle any Triumph Hurdle argument

Gala Marceau looks to confirm Dublin Racing Festival Form over Lossiemouth as Willie Mullins holds an enviable hand in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

She finished seven and a half lengths adrift of her stablemate Lossiemouth when they met over the Christmas period, but turned the tables in style to scoop Grade One honours at Leopardstown last month.

Many felt Lossiemouth was an unlucky loser on that occasion. Although Peter Molony, racing manager for owner Kenny Alexander of Honeysuckle fame, somewhat agrees, he believes Gala Marceau will be right in the mix once again if curbing her tendency to pull hard during her races.

He said: “Although Lossiemouth was unlucky on the day, Danny (Mullins, jockey) felt his lady wasn’t stopping and actually felt he was running away from her again at the end.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a horse pull so hard in a Grade One and win, so we’re hoping with the stronger pace on Friday she will settle a bit better.

“If she settles she could be hard to beat – she will be there or thereabouts anyway.”

Gala Marceau will once again be partnered by Danny Mullins and connections are delighted to have retained his services.

Danny Mullins after winning aboard Gala Marceau in the Marquees Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last month
Danny Mullins after winning aboard Gala Marceau in the Marquees Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last month (Donall Farmer/PA)

“We were a small bit worried he might have to ride one of the other two, but he said a couple of weeks ago he wasn’t getting off this lady,” continued Molony.

“She has won him a Grade One and he wasn’t going to jump off her. We are very happy about that.”

Paul Townend will continue his association with Lossiemouth, who attempts to give owner Rich Ricci back to back victories in the race.

“I spent a lot of time trying to figure out which one I would ride,” the leading jockey told Ladbrokes.

“I am happy to be on Lossiemouth but whether I am on the right one remains to be seen.

Lossiemouth ridden by jockey Paul Townend wins the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle during the Leopardstown Christmas Festival
Lossiemouth ridden by jockey Paul Townend wins the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle during the Leopardstown Christmas Festival (Brian Lawless/PA)

“We were unlucky at the Dublin Racing Festival. She showed huge ability in her two wins before that and to get as close as she did to Gala Marceau after suffering so much interference that day was impressive.

“My horse has the form in the book so I sided with her.” 

The respective choices of Mullins and Townend allows Patrick Mullins to come in for the plum ride aboard Blood Destiny, who has disposed his stablemate Lossiemouth at the top of the market in recent weeks.

Second to Bo Zenith in his sole start in France, he has done nothing wrong in two appearances for Mullins, beating a useful cast that included Tuesday’s Boodles winner Jazzy Matty by 18 lengths at Fairyhouse in January.

The Dublin Racing Festival came too soon for him to test his mettle against his esteemed colleagues, but he is rated highly by the master of Closutton.

Blood Destiny was an easy winner at Fairyhouse
Blood Destiny was an easy winner at Fairyhouse (Gary Carson/PA)

He said: “Blood Destiny is very good and I just felt it was only three weeks since his last run, he’s only four and it was going to be a hard race if he ran in it.

“He’ll go there a bit fresher and he’s a fair sort.”

The Mullins hand is strengthened by Zenta, who created a taking impression at Fairyhouse last month when winning a Grade Three with ease.

“Apart from a few mistakes she won really nicely at Fairyhouse,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.

“It looks a very hot race and she has it all to do, but it looks a nice race to run her in.”

Je Garde, Cinsa and Gust Of Wind are the others representing Mullins, with the latter backed to build on her debut for the yard at Leopardstown last month.

“He is quite unique in terms of his appearance – he looks like a Dalmatian,” said Craig Kieswetter of Barnane Stud, who own in the gelding in partnership with the Heffer family at Hollywood Bets.

“Ross Doyle (bloodstock agent) rang me up after he ran in France and said to me, ‘you have to buy this horse, he looks to have tremendous potential’. We have full trust in Ross and Peter and Anna (the Doyles) and, when they come to us so adamant and so confident in a horse, most of the time our arm gets twisted.

“He’s trending in the right direction and he’s obviously raced in Graded company before, but he is still inexperienced for his age.

“We are excited by him, but we’re not going there expecting overly much. We’re hoping for a decent run and he’s one we have highlighted as with a bit more experience and time to strengthen up, could be a proper Graded-race horse at all future festivals.”

Newbury Races – Saturday December 31st
Jupiter Du Gite ridden by Niall Houlihan wins the Coral Racing Club Join For Free ‘Introductory’ Hurdle at Newbury (Nigel French)

The late defection of Scriptwriter has left the home challenge looking extremely weak, with Ben Pauling leading the charge with his new recruit from France, Jipcot – who was supplemented into the race at the six-day stage.

The Naunton Downs handler is also represented by Active Duty, while Gary Moore is hoping to see the Jupiter Du Gite who bolted up on debut at Newbury rather than the version which bombed out at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day.

He said: “He’s a hard horse to gauge at home and the way he ran first time was probably the biggest surprise I’ve had all season to be honest with you. In contrast, the way he ran the second time was no surprise.

“That’s him, he’s obviously a very talented horse and he’s had a good break between races now. He goes there in very special order with himself – he’s in really great order.

“I think the thing with him is he has got to have really soft ground – that day at Newbury it was very soft and he enjoyed it.”

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Monday Musings: Mullins’ Marvels

There was an eight-runner juvenile hurdle race at Leopardstown on Saturday, the opening race on what was expected to be a Willie Mullins obliteration of all other stables over the two days of the Dublin Racing Festival, writes Tony Stafford. In the event, he collected eight of the well-endowed prizes on offer, six at Grade 1 level.

I made his horses’ earnings from the winners alone a total of €755K so, with a bunch of places on top, it would easily have topped a million, although it wasn’t always as planned, as you will read later.

Anyway, returning to Saturday’s opener, Willie’s 1-3 favourite Lossiemouth was expected to build on her easy December wins in a Grade 3 at Fairyhouse and a Grade 2 on this track, adding to a ten-length debut success at Auteuil back in April of last year.

No wonder the filly was the long-range favourite for next month’s JCB Triumph Hurdle and that status is unchanged at 13/8 even though she was beaten by two and a half lengths on Saturday. The main culprit was not the winner Gala Marceau, but rather the interference she suffered on the way round.

We marvel at the Mullins magic, but we should marvel more at the money he can manage to drum up from a host of big name owners ready to join the party. Of the eight in Saturday’s field, six were trained at Closutton in Co Carlow. All six were bought after running in France, none at a public auction.

One of those, perhaps inevitably, was Gala Marceau, the beneficiary of Lossiemouth’s travails but clearly decent in her own right. The most experienced in racing terms of the Mullins sextet, she raced four times on the flat as a 2yo in France, winning her final start by five lengths over 1m1f on heavy ground at Le Croise Laroche, the track that’s only a stone’s throw from Lille station, the intermediary stop of the Eurostar before Paris.

Switched to jumps she won both her hurdles, at Compiegne (€20k) and Auteuil (€30k), the latter by 11 lengths on April 30. The next sight of her was in Lossiemouth’s race on St Stephen’s (Boxing) Day when, receiving 3lb, she was a creditable runner-up although beaten seven-and-a-half lengths. She runs in the colours of Honeysuckle’s owner, Kenny Alexander.

Gala Marceau, unsurprisingly, is contesting second spot in the Triumph market. It’s easy to see the appeal for Mullins and Harold Kirk, his principal French racing talent spotter. Apart from the obvious ability, she’s by Galiway, the sire of Vauban, last year’s easy winner of the juvenile championship at Cheltenham for the Mullins stable and a far from disappointing third in yesterday’s Irish Champion Hurdle.

Lossiemouth had only needed a single run for the attention to be drawn to her and for Susannah Ricci’s colours to appear on her when she made that Fairyhouse debut as an eye-watering (with hindsight) 3-1 shot. It was understandable at the time as the 5-4 favourite Zarak The Brave, another import, and carrying the Munir-Souede double green livery, had already won a race by ten lengths since his transfer to Ireland.

Lossiemouth is a daughter of Great Pretender, sire of Mullins’ Benie Des Dieux as well as the Paul Nicholls pair Greanateen and P’tit Zig, so another desirable stallion for the top echelon of owners to salivate over.

Next home in third was Tekao, also a Mullins inmate, in his case a son of Doctor Dino, sire of State Man and Sharjah as well as French-trained Master Dino and Alan King’s doughty performer Sceau Royal. State Man had a big date yesterday. Tekao raced only once in France, in late April in a flat race over ten furlongs at Lyon Parilly, which he won by three and a half lengths, but basically so easily it could have been 33 and a half.

Transferred to Mullins, he started odds-on for his first two hurdles, finishing third of 22 to very useful Comfort Zone at Navan before opening his account in an 18-runner juvenile at Leopardstown’s Christmas fixture, getting the better of Ascertain.

In finishing third on Saturday, ten lengths behind Lossiemouth, he puts the merit of the first two in context and he was improving on the previous form, as Ascertain was now six lengths behind, four times as far as at Navan.

In fifth we had yet another Mullins horse, Gust Of Wind, who had been the subject of a recent ownership change. He was previously owned outright by Barnane Stud until last month following his sole prior start, on September 29, when he easily won a 21k newcomers’ race at Auteuil. He now runs in partnership with the Hollywood Syndicate. Their Il Etait Temps is clearly very smart, having won by ten lengths in a 15-runner novice at Thurles before running Facile Vega to four lengths at Leopardstown over Christmas and they were due to renew internal hostilities in the big novice hurdle yesterday.

Another by Great Pretender, Gust Of Wind started as the 8-1 third favourite on Saturday and clearly will be expected to win any ordinary maiden/novice that the master trainer wants to send him to next time.

Sixth, 28 lengths behind the winner, came the gelding Cinsa, also carrying notable livery, that of Sullivan Bloodstock. A son of little-known (to me, anyway) Tirwanako, he obviously was spotted running well enough, in fourth some way back in Lossiemouth’s Auteuil debut, to attract the attention of Mr Kirk. A 50-1 shot here, he probably finished where expected as was the case of the complete outsider, Jourdefete, the second Ricci runner.

He too had only a single run in France when 3rd of 10 at Vichy in early May. Miles behind Lossiemouth on his Irish debut, he was a similar distance back here, but don’t be shocked when he starts winning nice races when going into handicaps.

Six horses then, mostly seen and acquired last spring and the interesting thing for me is whether they are allocated by the trainer or whether there’s some sort of in-house negotiation before the  ownerships are settled.

Imagine the Riccis, JP, Andy Sullivan and Kenny Alexander bidding away closeted together in a room. Or even separately making sealed bids. Maybe the names simply go into a barrel and the lucky winner gets the horse. Then again, they are all more than lucky and successful enough in life to start with!

Mullins had won three races, all at the top level, on the opening day and added five more yesterday, but he will have been perplexed that his two shortest runners on the day, Blue Lord (1-4) for the Double Greens in the 2m5f Ladbrokes Dublin Chase and, more pertinently, the hitherto untouchable Facile Vega (4-9) in the novice hurdle, were both rolled over.

Naturally, the multiple back-up policy in the Grade 1’s, where hardly anyone else has a hope in face of such strength in depth, meant he still won each of the races.

Blue Lord was comfortably beaten by Gentleman de Mee, the Aintree novice chase conqueror of Edwardstone last April but just ticking over since, while Il Etait Temps wasn’t at all troubled to gain revenge over Facile Vega, but there’s clearly some sort of issue with that long-term banker for his novice hurdle target at Cheltenham.

All seemed serene as he went along at the head of the field In company with Joseph O’Brien-trained one-time Epsom Derby favourite High Definition. Then, at around halfway, High Definition made a mistake and J J Slevin, the trainer’s cousin, was unable to stay on board, leaving the favourite clear.

But in another case of family fortunes, Il Etait Temps challenged the leader around the bend and, once passed, Facile Vega compounded: “he stopped quickly” said Paul Townend. That left Willie Mullins’ nephew Danny to complete a day’s double initiated on Gentleman de Mee, and augmenting his shock winner on Saturday’s opener, all at the expense of Townend bankers.

Naturally, the concluding mares’ bumper, just a Grade 2 but always a pointer to Cheltenham, had a Mullins winner, Fun Fun Fun, allowed to start at 9/4 but a winner by almost ten lengths. Son Patrick shared the limelight here.

That followed two more Willie Mullins wins. State Man made all at the expense of a gallant Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle, the mare just edging Vauban for second, so still creditable enough. State Man is clearly Ireland’s top hope of winning the Champion Hurdle, especially if Nicky Henderson forgets to declare Constitution Hill on the day.

We got our first sight of State Man in the UK at last year’s Cheltenham Festival when he started 13-8 favourite in a field of 26 for the County Hurdle and won smoothly. That was the prelude to four consecutive wins at the top level, climaxed by the easy defeat of the dual champion and national heroine yesterday.

State Man showed up over here with a rating of 141 after second place in a juvenile hurdle at Auteuil in May 2020, then after a 19-month absence, a fall in a maiden hurdle at Tramore and a bloodless romp at odds of 1/7 at Limerick.

That County Hurdle entry proved a nightmare scenario for the official and he must still be having palpitations, not just over him, but also another potential bloody nose at that fixture, which was only narrowly averted. He needed the help and courage of fellow Irish hurdler Brazil, once at Ballydoyle, who gave Gaelic Warrior 8lb and a short head beating in the juvenile handicap hurdle.

The handicapper had awarded Gaelic Warrior a figure of 129 and all he had to work with to arrive at it were three runs within just over six weeks at Auteuil the previous spring. He hadn’t won any of them, so when this season started Willie Mullins had a handy novice to go to work with.

Raised only 5lb for the Fred Winter Hurdle run, Gaelic Warrior won his maiden hurdle at rustic Tramore by 86 lengths and a conditions race at Clonmel by 15 lengths. When he appeared for his second handicap, supporting the Festina Lente Charity, and now off 143, itself highly charitable in the circumstances, it was no shock that in a 17-runner handicap, he started odds-on.

Needless to say he won, picking up the €88k prize with aplomb and completing a consolation double on the day for Paul Townend. He has entries in the two novice races next month and I doubt Mullins will favour the County Hurdle with what must be a new figure of at least 155, but we do like to bend over backwards for the invaders.

A Supreme success would catapult him alongside State Man for next year. In the meantime, when the weights for the handicaps come out, I will be scouring the lists, seeking out the least plausible Willie Mullins horse in anticipation of a small early wager, knowing it will start a short-priced favourite – as long as it’s the right one!

- TS

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Gala Marceau gets the better of luckless Lossiemouth

Gala Marceau caused a turn up in the Donohue Marquees Spring Juvenile Hurdle when turning the tables on her much-vaunted stablemate Lossiemouth at Leopardstown.

Owned by Kenny Alexander of Honeysuckle fame, Gala Marceau finished seven lengths behind Lossiemouth at Christmas and could be backed at 9-2 while Lossiemouth was sent off the red-hot 1-3 favourite.

However, the Willie Mullins-trained pair, although dominating the finish, did not cross the line in the order expected.

Lossiemouth’s race was lost at the third-last when another stablemate, the rank outsider Jourdefete, owned like Lossiemouth by Rich Ricci, made a mistake leaving Lossiemouth nowhere to go.

Paul Townend had to take his medicine on the market leader, briefly dropping back to last before circling the field on the bend.

It was to Lossiemouth’s credit that she still had a chance heading to the last, but the bird had already flown.

Gala Marceau and Danny Mullins were spring-heeled at it and maintained a two and a half length advantage at the finish. Another Mullins runner, Tekao, was third.

Lossiemouth is now 9-4 from 11-8 for the Triumph while the winner is 4-1 from 10s.

“Paul got into a lot of trouble, but the winner is a good filly and she’s improving all the time,” said Mullins. “Paul thinks he was a little unlucky.

Gala Marceau got the better of Lossiemouth
Gala Marceau got the better of Lossiemouth (Gary Carson/PA)

“That (same ownership) was the disappointing part about it. Paul said to me he got done three times.

“I just hope it doesn’t leave its mark that she had such a hard run from the third-last home. She put in a huge effort for a juvenile filly and that might just leave a mark.

“That’s what I’m really worried about and I would have been happier if Paul had maybe just been hands and heels. The writing was on the wall, so what was the point in hitting her.

“He has to have a go to try to win, but to me unless Danny’s made a mistake at the last he wasn’t going to get to that one.”

On the winner he said: “We thought she had every chance coming here today if anything happened to the other one. Lossiemouth had been working well at home, but Gala Marceau probably had more scope for improvement.

“She jumps very well and she’s a good filly.”

Lossiemouth looked an unlucky loser
Lossiemouth looked an unlucky loser (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ricci was philosophical and said: “She was hampered by my other horse! Take nothing away from the winner, but I’m disappointed and Cheltenham will be a different story.

“She lost a furlong when the race was really starting. It’s disappointing and we’re still bereft of a Grade One this season – hopefully we’ll get one tomorrow.

“I think Paul was trying to let the other horse know he was there, the young fella (Jack Foley) on the other horse just got his wires crossed, these things happen, it is what is and fair play to the winner.”

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