Tag Archive for: Impaire Et Passe

Impaire Et Passe set for Aintree after being taken out of Cheltenham engagements

Impaire Et Passe looks set to head straight to the Aintree Hurdle in April after being scratched from both the Champion Hurdle and the Stayers’ Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old was considered one of the most exciting horses in training following an unbeaten novice campaign that saw him land the Ballymore at Cheltenham and a Grade One at Punchestown, but he has suffered defeat in each of his three outings so far this term.

He was touched off by leading Stayers’ Hurdle contender Teahupoo on his reappearance in the two-and-a-half-mile Hatton’s Grace and has since proved no match for his Champion Hurdle-bound stablemate State Man in either the Matheson Hurdle or the Irish Champion Hurdle over two miles at Leopardstown.

With connections of the opinion he requires a step back up in distance but that a first foray over three miles in the Stayers’ Hurdle would be a step too far, Impaire Et Passe will not be in action at the showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds in five weeks’ time.

Anthony Bromley, racing manager for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, said: “The feeling after Daryl (Jacob) rode him the other day was that we need to keep him to two and a half miles and there isn’t a two-and-a-half-mile race at Cheltenham. We’ll wait for Aintree and see if we can get him sparkling again.

“We don’t feel he’s reached the form that he was showing last year, so the idea is to wait for Aintree and if he’s not sparkling going into Aintree we’ll just wait for novice chasing next season.

“We can’t see either race at Cheltenham being what needs at this moment. Two miles looks too short and we don’t want to go three miles at this stage.

“Daryl was adamant to go two and a half at Aintree and freshen him up for that.”

Impaire Et Passe is one of four horses scratched from the Champion Hurdle along with his stable companion Vauban, James Owen’s high-class juvenile Burdett Road and the Henry de Bromhead-trained Bob Olinger, who also appears bound for Aintree after splitting State Man and Impaire Et Passe when second in the Irish Champion Hurdle on Sunday.

Seven have been taken out of the Stayers’ Hurdle, with Ahoy Senor and Ashdale Bob among those joining Impaire Et Passe as absentees.

Dual winner Allaho tops six horses scratched from the Ryanair Chase along with Dysart Dynamo, Idas Boy, Jonbon, Sir Gerhard and Greaneteen.

Dysart Dynamo and Greaneteen are also out of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, as are Dinoblue, Fil Dor and Nube Negra, while the Cheltenham Gold Cup field has also reduced by four, with Envoi Allen, Royale Pagaille, Stay Away Fay and the fatally injured Datsalrightgino all withdrawn.

Jacob full of hope teaming up with Impaire Et Passe for the first time

Daryl Jacob is extremely excited to be given the opportunity to ride Impaire Et Passe in the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown on Friday.

Only four are due to go to post in the two-mile Grade One, and three of those are trained by Willie Mullins.

It is an event Mullins has farmed in recent years – since 2010 he has won all bar three renewals, with Hurricane Fly and Sharjah winning four apiece.

Last year the champion trainer was successful with State Man and he lines up once more as the choice of Paul Townend.

That meant the ride on last year’s hugely impressive Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner Impaire Et Passe was free and as retained rider to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede in the UK, Jacob was in pole position.

Daryl Jacob gets into the festive spirit after a winner at Leopardstown on Wednesday
Daryl Jacob gets into the festive spirit after a winner at Leopardstown on Wednesday (Niall Carson/PA)

Impaire Et Passe lost his unbeaten record on his seasonal return in the Hatton’s Grace, and Mullins has taken the decision to drop him in trip to two miles. But Jacob feels the testing ground will make it more of a stamina test.

“I’m very much looking forward to riding him. He’s a very exciting horse for Simon and Isaac and everyone and this is another step on the ladder for him,” said Jacob.

“He’s racing over two miles for the first time in a while, but I’ve been in Ireland all week and there has been a lot of rain.

“The hurdle course on Wednesday went soft then heavy, but he has handled that sort of ground, he’s won over further and he has got speed.

“He’s a hugely exciting horse and I’m very grateful for the opportunity, I can’t wait to ride him.

“I rode him out on Thursday morning, he seems in really good form and I really don’t see the ground being an issue at all.”

Jacob has enjoyed a particularly fruitful spell of late and is operating at a strike-rate of over 40 per cent for the past two weeks, and he would love to top it off with a Grade One.

“I’ve had a nice few winners of late, but a Grade One win before the new year would be lovely,” he said.

Understandably given his choice, Townend feels State Man sets the standard given the only horse who has finished in front of him when he has completed since joining Mullins is Constitution Hill.

State Man was impressive in the Matheson Hurdle last year
State Man was impressive in the Matheson Hurdle last year (Niall Carson/PA)

He told his Ladbrokes blog: “He seems to set the standard this side of the water. His only defeat was by Constitution Hill last year. It’s interesting he’s being taken on by Impaire Et Passe.

“I thought Impaire Et Passe ran with a lot of credit in the Hatton’s Grace in Fairyhouse. He has a run under his belt and State Man won the Morgiana.

“It’s a big test, but State Man played at the top table all last season and sets the standard. The pair are sure to make a good race of it.”

Mullins also runs the mare Echoes In Rain, while Gordon Elliott’s Fils D’oudairies is the only other contender.

Impaire Et Passe team taking plenty of positives from return

Connections of Impaire Et Passe insist there were “a lot of positives” to take from his comeback defeat in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old was one of the star novices of last season, carrying the ‘double green’ colours of owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede to four victories, including Grade One triumphs at the Cheltenham and Punchestown festivals.

With some bookmakers rating him as the biggest threat to Constitution Hill for the Champion Hurdle this term, Impaire Et Passe was odds-on to pick up where he left off on Sunday, but after travelling strongly in the hands of Paul Townend, he was mowed down by the defending champion Teahupoo.

While disappointed to suffer defeat, the owners’ racing manager Anthony Bromley is keeping the faith.

“I was perfectly happy with Impaire’s return, he took a good blow and just got done close home. I think he showed plenty and we’ll look forward to the season ahead,” he said.

“It was his first step outside of novice company and I think he performed with a lot of credit. He’s such a lovely horse and there were a lot of positives to take from the run.”

What route Impaire Et Passe takes to the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham remains undecided, with Mullins also responsible for another major player in the form of State Man.

Impaire Et Passe may have to meet State Man (pictured) on his next start
Impaire Et Passe may have to meet State Man (pictured) on his next start (Brian Lawless/PA)

The latter won the Morgiana Hurdle, the Matheson Hurdle, the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Punchestown Champion Hurdle last term, with his only defeat coming at the hands of Constitution Hill when runner-up at Prestbury Park.

State Man made a successful reappearance when registering back-to-back wins in the Morgiana last month, and Bromley believes there is every chance Impaire Et Passe will meet his stablemate at some stage before Cheltenham in March.

He added: “Whether he comes out again at Christmas or waits for the Dublin Racing Festival (Irish Champion Hurdle), we’ll just wait and see what Willie wants to do.

“I’d imagine he’s going to come back to two miles now because there’s isn’t a two-and-a-half-mile race at Christmas in Ireland – it’s either two miles or three miles.

“Whether or not he does run in the Matheson Hurdle will be Willie’s decision as he’d obviously be taking on State Man, but if he doesn’t take him on at Christmas he’d be taking him on at the Dublin Festival and that will tell us more as to where we are with the horse.

“There aren’t the races in Ireland to split them up, the only time you could was for their reappearance runs as one could go Morgiana and one could go Hatton’s Grace.

“From now on they’ll have to meet and then, come March, there’s another one for us to meet (Constitution Hill)!”

A possible alternative to locking horns with State Man over the festive period would be to make the trip to Britain for an early clash with Constitution Hill in the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day, but that appears highly unlikely, with Bromley saying a trip to Kempton was of “no interest at all”.

Teahupoo outbattles Impaire Et Passe in Hatton’s Grace

Teahupoo proved too game for hot favourite Impaire Et Passe as he completed back-to-back wins in the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Gordon Elliott’s charge ended the long unbeaten run of Honeysuckle in the Grade One contest last year and this time it was Willie Mullins’ Impaire Et Passe who had his bubble burst.

Sent off the 4-5 favourite, Impaire Et Passe was looking to pick up where he left off last term with top-level successes at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals and he appeared to be travelling supremely well as they turned for home.

Pacemaker Zanahiyr dropped out in the straight, leaving Paul Townend to go for home on the market leader – but Teahupoo had other ideas.

Teahupoo (right) was too good for Impaire Et Passe
Teahupoo (right) was too good for Impaire Et Passe (Brian Lawless/PA)

The pair were neck and neck on the approach to the final flight but it was Teahupoo who kept finding for pressure on the run to the line, with Jack Kennedy’s mount registering a length success at odds of 85-40.

Teahupoo finished a close third in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last term and Betfair go 4-1 from 6s about him for that race, while Impaire Et Passe is out to 8-1 from 11-2 for the Champion Hurdle following the first defeat of his career.

A Cheltenham return in March is now top of Elliott’s agenda, with the trainer planning a direct route for Teahupoo this time.

Gordon Elliott greets Teahupoo and Jack Kennedy
Gordon Elliott greets Teahupoo and Jack Kennedy (Brian Lawless/PA)

He said: “We knew he was in good nick but obviously Willie’s horse was going to be hard to beat over two and a half miles and we know our lad wants three.

“Jack gave him a wonderful ride and was very clever on him, squeezed him along and said he was going to have one go at him between the last two.

“The horse has got a lot stronger. He’s only a young horse and didn’t do much wrong last year.

“We are going to do things a bit different this year and the plan is to go straight for the Stayers’ Hurdle now.

“We might have knocked the edge off him in Gowran last year.”

Owner Brian Acheson, in whose Robcour colours Teahupoo runs, added: “The key to this horse, like Bob Olinger, is Robbie Power. He takes a lot of the horses during the summer and does a bit of dressage.

“Everything is for the welfare of the horses to get them physically in good condition and mechanically working well.

“Bob Olinger is not going for the Stayers’ as he doesn’t stay three miles, but he might go to Aintree and take on Constitution Hill.”

Kennedy is now the most successful rider in the history of the race, having also won back-to-back renewals with Apple’s Jade in 2017 and 2018.

Teahupoo (right) is on course for Cheltenham  now
Teahupoo (right) is on course for Cheltenham now (Brian Lawless/PA)

He said: “I think he’s after improving from last year, he seems a stronger horse. That was very good there and I’m delighted with him.

“He’s a pleasure to ride. Paul (Townend’s) lad looked to be on it a bit and I was kind of pushing him along a bit trying to make him do as much as he could.

“This lad was very good, he was tough and did it well in the end.

“I enjoy riding this lad. Obviously, he gave me a great day here last year as well, so it’s brilliant for him to back it up again this year.

“Hopefully, it’s onwards and upwards.”

Hatton’s Grace ‘obvious starting point’ for Impaire Et Passe

The unbeaten Impaire Et Passe will bid to showcase his Champion Hurdle credentials in the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

Arguably the star of Willie Mullins’ band of novices over hurdles last term, the exciting five-year-old confirmed the promise of his smooth Moscow Flyer success when striking with authority at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals in the spring.

He is now a warm order to make a smooth transition to open company and provide his trainer with another contender to take on Constitution Hill back at Prestbury Park in March.

However, there may be a few nerves at Closutton ahead of their hot hurdling prospect’s reappearance, having seen Gold Cup hero Galopin Des Champs beaten on his return last weekend.

“Impaire Et Passe obviously won over two and a half in Cheltenham and the Hatton’s Grace was the obvious starting point,” said Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father.

“Stepping out of novice company is always difficult, but what he did to Gaelic Warrior and Champ Kiely in Cheltenham was a huge performance.

“We’ll be disappointed if he got beaten, but Galopin Des Champs got beaten last weekend.”

Impaire Et Passe is joined in the line-up by stablemate Ashroe Diamond, who has won her last two, both here at Fairyhouse, and secured Grade One honours over track and trip in her final outing of last term.

Ashroe Diamond has some brilliant course form at Fairyhouse
Ashroe Diamond has some brilliant course form at Fairyhouse (Nigel French/PA)

“Ashroe Diamond will run very well, with a view to going for the Mares’ Hurdle later in the year,” continued Mullins, who will enjoy steering duties aboard the likeable six-year-old.

“My mother bred her, she’s won in Aintree for the owners and won a Grade One in Fairyhouse.

“I thought her two runs behind Facile Vega and Marine Nationale last year were the two best runs by a mare last year. She’s a long way out on ratings (on Sunday), but I think when she drops back to mares only company, she’ll be giving everything plenty to think about.”

Teahupoo lowered the colours of Honeysuckle when staying on strongly to edge out Klassical Dream and Henry de Bromhead’s champion mare 12 months ago and Gordon Elliott’s Stayers’ Hurdle third will be attempting to repeat the dose in the hands of Jack Kennedy.

Jockey Jack Kennedy (left) and owner Brian Acheson celebrate Teahupoo's Hatton's Grace win last year
Jockey Jack Kennedy (left) and owner Brian Acheson celebrate Teahupoo’s Hatton’s Grace win last year (Brian Lawless/PA)

Last year’s victory was the fourth time Elliott has triumphed in the Grade One after Apple’s Jade dominated the contest between 2016 and 2018 and the Cullentra House team are also represented by the consistent Zanahiyr.

“I’ve got Teahupoo and Zanahiyr in the Hatton’s Grace and both horses have got good chances,” Elliott told Racing TV.

“Teahupoo on his form last year would probably be the pick of them, but whereas Zanahiyr wouldn’t mind a bit of better ground, Teahupoo would want as much rain as he can get.”

The field of five is complete by Paul Gilligan’s Buddy One, who steps out of handicap company in search of a hat-trick, having impressed at Cheltenham during the November meeting.

“Isn’t it great to have a horse to take on the big boys? That’s what we all want, one of these horses, and we have one now and it’s great,” said Gilligan.

“He’s won at Fairyhouse. We won’t get carried away, as we know exactly what’s facing us if he steps up to take on these guys.

“Impaire Et Passe is going to be hard to beat, Teahupoo is going to be hard to beat, but he could beat them – who’s to say he won’t?”

Unbeaten Impaire Et Passe on course for Hatton’s Grace return

Impaire Et Passe is the star name among seven horses confirmed for the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

The French import is four from four over obstacles since joining Willie Mullins, a record which includes a dominant victory over stablemate Gaelic Warrior in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The five-year-old is rated the biggest threat to the brilliant Constitution Hill by some bookmakers in this season’s Champion Hurdle market and he will be a warm order to make a successful start to his campaign this weekend.

Mullins could also saddle high-class mare Ashroe Diamond, while Gordon Elliott has a quartet of contenders in Beacon Edge, Irish Point, last year’s Hatton’s Grace hero Teahupoo and Zanahiyr.

Paul Gilligan’s recent Cheltenham scorer Buddy One completes the acceptors. The six-year-old faces a rise in class after scoring in handicap company in the Cotswolds two weeks ago, but Gilligan is contemplating rolling the dice.

He said: “We’ll make a decision on Friday morning, hopefully we’ll be going. He’s in super order and has come out of Cheltenham very, very well.

The first of three Grade Ones on a quality card is the Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, for which nine promising youngster have stood their ground.

An Tobar looks a major player judged on an impressive debut under rules over the course and distance for Henry de Bromhead, who also has the promising Slade Steel.

Mullins has confirmed Bialystok and Horantzau D’airy, his brother Tom looks set to saddle Fascile Mode and Elliott could run Farren Glory, King Of Kingsfield and What’s Up Darling.

Encanto Bruno, trained by Gavin Cromwell, also warrants respect.

Sharjah and Paul Townend after winning at Galway
Sharjah and Paul Townend after winning at Galway (Niall Carson/PA)

Seven go forward for the Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase, including the Mullins-trained pair of I Am Maximus and Sharjah.

I Am Maximus won the Irish Grand National in the spring, but retains his novice status for the time being, as does the top-class hurdler Sharjah, who has made a smooth transition to fences with two comfortable victories.

Elliott has three to choose from, with American Mike, Favori De Champdou and Found A Fifty all engaged, while Cromwell fires a twin assault with Letsbeclearaboutit and Perceval Legallois.

Impaire confirmed for long-term Champion assignment

Connections of Impaire Et Passe are keen to have a crack at the Champion Hurdle despite the imposing figure of Constitution Hill standing in their way.

Trained by Willie Mullins and owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, Impaire Et Passe looked imperious in winning all four outings last term.

While his six-and-a-half-length victory over stablemate Gaelic Warrior in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle last season was impressive, he is a best-priced 13-2 for the Champion Hurdle, with current title-holder Constitution Hill the general 4-9 favourite after his connections ruled out a chasing switch.

“Impaire Et Passe is staying hurdling. Connections are keen to have a crack at the Champion Hurdle,” said Mullins.

“I’m not sure if that decision was made before the Constitution Hill one or not, but I think he has a fair crack at the Champion Hurdle.

“He won the Ballymore, the only reason he ran in that was because we had Facile Vega in the Supreme, so that is the route he will go down.

“If he improves any little bit – he’ll probably have to improve a fair bit to beat Constitution Hill – but I think he can and that is the decision we’ve made. I think he might start in the Hatton’s Grace.”

State Man won four Grade Ones in Ireland last season
State Man won four Grade Ones in Ireland last season (Niall Carson/PA)

Second to Constitution Hill last season was Mullins’ State Man. He won all his other four outings at Grade One level but has nine lengths to find with Nicky Henderson’s supreme talent.

“I think when you can win four Grade Ones in Ireland – every horse is only one gallop away from an injury – it’s all to play for. Constitution Hill has to get there and so do we, so we just felt that he could earn his keep easier over hurdles, that was the main reason (for staying over hurdles),” said Mullins.

“The obvious race is the Morgiana. It’s hard to see him beating Constitution Hill, but I’m hoping he’ll improve.

“The two of them will get entries in both the Morgiana and Hatton’s Grace, the two could run in either, it will depend on who is ready first. Whoever runs in the Morgiana, we might let the other go for the Hatton’s Grace.”

Some bookmakers have Mullins’ Triumph Hurdle winner Lossiemouth in the Champion Hurdle betting but she is likely to stick to her own sex.

“Lossiemouth could go for the Champion Hurdle or the Mares’ Hurdle but it will more than likely be the Mares’ Hurdle,” said Mullins.

“I haven’t decided where I will start her yet as she had a busy enough season last season, she’s only four. We’d probably like to run her at Christmas, Dublin Festival and Cheltenham so whether she runs before Christmas, I’ve not decided and might just keep her fresh.”

Constitution Hill plans not a factor in Impaire Et Passe decision

Connections of Impaire Et Passe insist a potential clash with Constitution Hill was not a factor in their decision to keep last season’s star novice hurdler over the smaller obstacles this term.

There were differing views on Tuesday after Nicky Henderson confirmed his Champion Hurdle hero Constitution Hill would not be embarking on a chasing career in the immediate future, with some bemoaning the decision due to the perceived lack of depth in the two-mile hurdling division.

In Impaire Et Passe, though, he could face a new and significant rival, with the five-year-old having won each of four starts since joining Willie Mullins, including a dominant success in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Given the irresistible force that stands in their way, many expected Impaire Et Passe’s owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede to elect to send their charge over fences in the autumn – but he will indeed head down the Champion Hurdle route, regardless of the opposition.

The owners’ racing manager, Anthony Bromley, said: “Basically it was always the thinking all summer that Impaire Et Passe was pretty inexperienced and another season hurdling would be good for the horse.

“We weren’t making the decision based on what other horses were around us, we were making the decision based on what was the best decision for the horse and his long-term career.

“You never know what will happen to all these horses, so you make the decision based on what’s best for the actual animal rather than what’s around you, that was the thinking really.”

While the chances of Constitution Hill going chasing in the future appear slim, Impaire Et Passe is expected to switch disciplines next term.

Bromley added: “He’s so lightly raced that another season hurdling will hopefully toughen him up and then we can go chasing next season.

“He is the stamp of a chaser so he is exciting for that job, but we’ll see how high he can go over hurdles first.”

Impaire Et Passe an emphatic winner at Punchestown

Impaire Et Passe showed a neat turn of foot and powered to victory in the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle for jockey Paul Townend and trainer Willie Mullins.

The five-year-old ran well within himself and Townend rode the Cheltenham’s Ballymore winner with supreme poise.

Send off a 1-3 favourite against just four rivals, he sat third throughout much of the extended two miles and three furlongs of the Grade One contest.

Though Impaire Et Passe made a novicey mistake six out, which saw him with plenty of ground to make up, Townend appeared to ooze confidence as stablemate Champ Kiely and the Joseph O’Brien-trained High Definition set the pace.

There was still plenty to do approaching two out and for a brief moment, High Definition and JJ Slevin looked set to cause a shock.

But Townend had plenty up his sleeve and the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned gelding soon cruised upsides and went to the front on the bridle after being given a reminder that this was not simply a piece of work.

Jumping clear at the last, he stormed home to record a seven-and-a-half length success, with High Definition hanging on for second, despite stumbling when hitting the running rail after jumping the last.

Mullins was far from happy with the performance, however.

He said: “He didn’t impress me at all, I was delighted he won, but throughout the race he wasn’t impressing me.

“He looked like he wasn’t enjoying it and maybe Cheltenham took much more out of him than we thought.

“At home he was on fire and maybe I did too much with him, because he was going so well.

“It’s hard to say something went wrong when you win by seven and-a half lengths.

“Maybe he loves the hill in Cheltenham, he just got going up the hill, whereas today is a flat track. I’ll have a quick chat with Paul later on and see what he thought.

“Turning for home, I wouldn’t have backed him, so to win after that just means that he has a huge engine, but he wasn’t really in love with what he was doing today, whether it was the ground or what I don’t know.

“I think we’ll freshen him up now. I was thinking maybe of going to France but I won’t, I think I’ll just put him away.”

Townend and Mullins were not too impressed with Impaire Et Passe
Townend and Mullins were not too impressed with Impaire Et Passe (Brian Lawless/PA)

Townend echoed the sentiments, hinting his charge needed waking up.

He said: “It was not as straightforward as I was hoping. Maybe it was just because I was left on my own. I think everyone could see that I was never really happy throughout the race.

“When I got upsides them, he came on the bridle for me and his class shone through then.”

He added: “He’ll have no problem jumping a fence, but I’d say it will depend on what the horse across the water (Constitution Hill) is doing as well!”

Anthony Bromley, racing representative of owners Isaac Souede and Simon Munir and the man who purchases most of their horses, intimated that while the five-year-old has the size to be a chaser, the move to larger obstacles might be put on hold while the education process continues.

“He was quite switched off in the race and Paul had to wind him up a little bit turning but he picked up,” noted Bromley.

“To be fair, some of his races haven’t always been impressive. In the Moscow Flyer (at Punchestown), he wasn’t ‘Wow,’ and that’s why they went up in trip. He just needs to be woken up. I think there’s so much talent under the bonnet and I think he’s still a work in progress.

A chasing career could be delayed for Impaire Et Passe
A chasing career could be delayed for Impaire Et Passe (Brian Lawless/PA)

“He’s a big frame of a horse. He only had one bumper run last year and that’s his fourth hurdle run. I think the plan might be to stay hurdling and learn a bit more. But, the great Willie will tell us. In Willie we trust!

“You worry turning in slightly, you have a little moment, and suddenly by the line it’s clear and he’s winning easing down. He’s got great potential.”

The ‘Double Green’ colours had already enjoyed Grade One success at the meeting, with El Fabiolo on Thursday.

“There’s a lot of nice youngsters at Willie’s and it’s so exciting,” Bromley said.

“Isaac and Simon get a lot of fun from it. They love the Dublin Racing Festival, they love Cheltenham but Punchestown has really worked and they’ve been here all week, and to get two nice big winners – proper big winners – and horses that look like they might be superstars, is brilliant.

“And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? They put a lot into it. They’ve got a lot of horses and we’ve kissed a lot of frogs. But these two are exciting.”

Impaire Et Passe puts lofty status on the line

Impaire Et Passe puts his unbeaten record and tall reputation on the line in the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Friday.

The French bumper winner made a hugely impressive hurdling debut for Willie Mullins at Naas in December before dominating his rivals in the Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown a month later.

The Closutton dogs were barking Impaire Et Passe’s name ahead of last month’s Cheltenham Festival and he duly delivered, easing clear in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in the style of a horse destined for even greater things.

Mullins had the option of running the five-year-old over the Moscow Flyer distance of two miles earlier in the week, but has elected to stick to a longer trip on the penultimate day of the meeting.

“We ran him over two miles in the Moscow Flyer in Punchestown before Cheltenham and the speed he showed in Cheltenham was fantastic but then again, that was against two-and-a-half-mile horses,” said Mullins.

“For Impaire Et Passe, it’s no problem doing two-and-a-half around Punchestown.”

High Definition winning on his hurdling debut at Leopardstown
High Definition winning on his hurdling debut at Leopardstown (Brian Lawless/PA)

The champion trainer also saddles Champ Kiely, who was seven and a half lengths behind Impaire Et Passe when third in the Ballymore and takes him on again.

One-time Derby favourite High Definition is stepped up in distance by Joseph O’Brien following a seventh placed finish in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. The five-year-old also sports cheek pieces for the first time since pursuing a jumping career.

Amir Kabir (Gordon Elliott), Inothewayurthinkin (Gavin Cromwell) and Thecompanysergeant (Denis Hogan) are the other contenders.

‘Wow’ performance, as Impaire Et Passe blows Ballymore rivals away

Impaire Et Passe produced a devastating performance to lead home a Willie Mullins one-two-three in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Despite being the talking horse of the pre-Festival preview circuits he was usurped as favourite shortly before the tapes went up by Paul Nicholls’ Hermes Allen and allowed to go off at 5-2.

The winner, runner-up Gaelic Warrior and Barry Connell’s Good Land were all marking each other in mid-division for the most part as Champ Kiely gave Hermes Allen a lead at the front end.

But when Hermes Allen moved up to eyeball Champ Kiely and forced the pace to quicken four out, the pack were edging their way closer to the action and as the runners descended towards two out, it was clear Paul Townend had plenty of horse underneath him.

Taking the brave route up the inner, the five-year-old was soon in the clear and Townend simply had to keep his mount’s momentum moving forwards as he scooted up the hill to return a six-and-a-half-length verdict.

Gaelic Warrior and Champ Kiely filled the podium positions for the Closutton yard, as Mullins enhanced his fine record in the race, registering his sixth victory and following up Sir Gerhard’s triumph 12 months ago.

Impaire Et Passe was in a different league
Impaire Et Passe was in a different league (Mike Egerton/PA)

Impaire Et Passe runs in the ‘double green’ colours of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede – who were on the mark on day one with El Fabiolo in the Arkle.

Munir said: “He’s been working very, very well and he won his races in Ireland well but he was going up in distance and the ground was another question mark. To win by six and a half lengths on his fourth run is breathtaking. It’s very exciting.

“It was quite a deep race, Champ Kiely, Gaelic Warrior, Hermes Allen from England – all horses with good form lines. It was competitive, Willie was right to go for the Ballymore and not the Supreme.

“He’s really a blank canvas, that was the fourth run of his life, he’s won by six and a half lengths and came over the last in the lead. The sky’s the limit at the moment – the dream is very much alive.”

Mullins said: “That was good, I was very impressed. When he got through, the change of pace coming down the last – wow.

“I think that was just his fourth run of his life so there’s improvement there.

Impaire Et Passe on the way to victory
Impaire Et Passe on the way to victory (Tim Goode/PA)

“I’m looking at him as a chaser, but you have to ask yourself would you stay hurdling? You have to look at Champion Hurdles and things.

“Yesterday I was telling Michael Buckley (owner of Constitution Hill) that we were going to have go off and shop again to buy one to beat him, but maybe we have one here. His jumping is great, so maybe we have one.”

He added: “Gaelic Warrior, we took out his ear plugs out on the way to the start and he didn’t settle as well as Patrick (Mullins) wanted him to. Patrick did say he could go up to three miles, so maybe he’s a chaser down the line.

“Champ Kiely surprised me by staying on so well. Danny (Mullins) said he hung terribly down the back, we’ll see if he had a problem, but he’s another who will make a nice chaser down the line.”

Impaire Et Passe leads Mullins’ Ballymore charge

Impaire Et Passe will lead a four-strong team for Willie Mullins into battle in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

Ireland’s perennial champion trainer has saddled five previous winners of the Festival’s day two curtain-raiser, with the brilliant Faugheen (2014) and last year’s victor Sir Gerhard among them.

In the lead-up to this year’s renewal, the Closutton dogs have been barking the name of Impaire Et Passe, who was an 18-length winner at Naas on his Irish debut before dominating his rivals in the Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

The latter event is more traditionally a trial for Cheltenham’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, with Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015) both doing the double – but Mikael D’Haguenet won the Moscow Flyer and the Ballymore in 2009 and Impaire Et Passe is a hot favourite to follow suit.

Anthony Bromley, racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, does not expect a step up in trip to be an issue, saying: “The training preparation has gone well and soft ground shouldn’t be a problem. He is a nice individual.

“Obviously, he is trying a new trip, but he has won on soft and heavy ground on his two most recent starts, so we go in there really hopeful.”

Impaire Et Passe is joined by a trio of stablemates in Gaelic Warrior, Champ Kiely and Ho My Lord.

Gaelic Warrior was beaten a head after being heavily backed for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at last year’s Festival, but is three from three this term – most recently carrying top-weight to success in handicap company at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Champ Kiely won at a Grade One at Naas on his latest outing, while Ho My Lord faces a steep rise in class after winning a maiden hurdle at Navan.

Hermes Allen is a chaser for the future, Paul Nicholls insists
Hermes Allen is a chaser for the future, Paul Nicholls insists (Adam Davy/PA)

Paul Nicholls has perhaps his best chance of the week with Hermes Allen, although has made no secret of the fact that he considers him a chaser in the making.

The six-year-old also puts his unbeaten record on the line, having won all three starts over hurdles, including the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle in soft ground at Newbury.

Nicholls said: “Almost everything that finished behind him at Newbury has won since, so it has turned out to be a very good race.

“He has got a huge amount of ability and I’m excited about going to Cheltenham, but I’m as excited about going chasing with him next year – he will be a lovely horse to go chasing with.

“He has worked nicely and is in good shape. Two and a half (miles) is ideal for him.

“It is a very good race, the Irish have some good horses in there, but he’s got a great chance – he jumps, he’ll be ridden forward and he is a lovely horse.

“He has probably got the best chance of ours, according to the betting, anyway. It is a very good-looking, competitive race. He’s done very well and will hopefully go close to winning.”

On a high after the victory of Marine Nationale in the Supreme Novices’, owner-trainer Barry Connell justifiably has high hopes for Good Land, who won a Grade One novice hurdle over two and three-quarter miles at Leopardstown last month.

Good Land has won at the top level over further
Good Land has won at the top level over further (Donall Farmer/PA)

He said: “He is like Marine Nationale, a late developer. This one is seven and only just started running this year.

“Unlike the other one, he won’t mind soft ground. He won his bumper on heavy ground at Wexford and any ground would be fine for him.

“He is a strong traveller and has plenty of stamina. He jumps great and has all the attributes you need to be successful in a Grade One at Cheltenham. I think he has a genuine chance of winning.”

Impaire tops four for Mullins in Ballymore opener

Impaire Et Passe and Gaelic Warrior lead the Willie Mullins charge in a red-hot running of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle that kicks off day two of the Cheltenham Festival.

The former has been the talking horse of the Festival preview circuit and as a result is currently topping the market, while the former will attempt to go one better than his second in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the meeting 12 months ago.

The master of Closutton has won this three times in the last 10 years – including last year with Sir Gerhard – and is responsible for four of the 10 declared for the opener.

Hermes Allen has been touted as one of Paul Nicholls’ best chances at the meeting and takes his chance, while Barry Connell’s Dublin Racing Festival scorer Good Land is another declared bringing top form to the table.

Scilly Isles winner Gerri Colombe tops the 11 going to post for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, with Jordan Gainford getting the chance to register a Grade One winner at the Festival.

Mullins is responsible for five of the declared runners with his quintet including Sir Gerhard and the supplemented Adamantly Chosen, while Patrick Neville has chosen to run dual course victor The Real Whacker in this rather than take an audacious swing at the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Keith Donoghue on Delta Work (right) on the gallops ahead of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, which begins tomorrow at Cheltenham Racecourse
Keith Donoghue on Delta Work (right) on the gallops ahead of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, which begins tomorrow at Cheltenham Racecourse (David Davies/PA)

Gordon Elliott has a strong hand in the Glenfarclas Chase over the cross-country course with defending champion Delta Work and Galvin both set to take their chance, while it is business as usual in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper with Willie Mullins responsible for 10 of the full field of 24, including three of the top four in the betting.

There is also a full compliment of runners in both the Coral Cup and Johnny Henderson Grand Annual, although the latter will be missing both Unexpected Party and Rouge Vif who were both popular in the ante-post markets.

Impaire Et Passe jets home in Moscow Flyer

Impaire Et Passe’s reputation continues to grow after an unchallenged success in the SkyBet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

The five-year-old had a French bumper win under his belt before joining Willie Mullins’ stable for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, after which he won a Naas maiden hurdle by 18 lengths in December.

That performance left him the 1-3 favourite in a small-field renewal of the two-mile Moscow Flyer, a price that was substantiated when the gelding strolled home six and a half lengths ahead under Paul Townend.

As a result Impaire Et Passe has been trimmed in the market for both the Supreme and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival, becoming a 6-1 chance for both races with Betfair and Paddy Power.

“He was very good, he showed a good turn of foot. As we said after Naas, he doesn’t show us that at home,” Townend said of the Grade Two victory.

“I was very happy with him there, he jumped like a buck and the only hurdle he was slow at was the last when he was in front, but he picked up nicely at the back of it again.

“The worry was coming back in trip but he showed pace today.

“I don’t know (how good he is) because we can’t get him to do it at home to be honest, but he keeps doing it on the track.

“I think he’s very smart and he gave me a great feel today.”

Townend also added that the Dublin Racing Festival may come a bit too quickly for the horse, saying: “I don’t know if Willie normally comes here and goes to the Dublin Racing Festival.

“I’d say this is the one instead of it, but wherever he goes I wouldn’t mind being on his back.”

All eyes set to be on exciting Impaire Et Passe at Punchestown

Impaire Et Passe, who made such an impression when winning on his debut for Willie Mullins at Naas, aims to live up to his reputation in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novices’ Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday.

Owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, the French import blitzed the field by 18 lengths in a race which did see several hurdles omitted due to low sun.

He steps up to Grade Two level and takes on Gordon Elliott’s unbeaten mare Shecouldbeanything in a field of five, but he is set to go off a very short-priced favourite.

Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins said: “Some horses thrive after winning a race and you can see them grow in confidence and Impaire Et Passe has come out of the race really well and I’d like to think he will progress from it.

“We’d like to think that he will be at the top end of his division.”

Paul Townend was on board at Naas and will be again.

“He made a big impact when he won his maiden hurdle at Naas,” Townend told his Ladbrokes blog.

“It probably wasn’t the strongest of races but the way he won it was very impressive. He’s a lot better on the course than he shows us at home and that is no problem. That is the way you want them to be.

“His maiden was over two and a quarter miles, but he is back to two miles here. I don’t think that is going to cause a huge issue for him.

“We have to give 8lb to three of our rivals but if he is going to be the horse that we think he could be, I think he can handle that. I am really looking forward to getting back on him and he is my best ride of the day.”

The race has been moved to first on the card in an attempt to run it in the best possible conditions. The ground is already heavy and the maiden hurdle has been divided with maximum fields in each division.

Ha D'or (left) in action at the Punchestown Festival
Ha D’or (left) in action at the Punchestown Festival (Brian Lawless/PA)

Townend has picked Ha D’or over Glengouly in the Grade Three Madigan Group Novice Chase.

“He was very impressive when winning at Fairyhouse on his first run over fences,” he said. “He seemed much more manageable and relaxed that day than he had been last year.

“It is a competitive race. It is a hot little contest with Minella Crooner, Journey With Me, Glengouly, Impervious in there, who are all last time out winners.

“However, I think my horse has improved from the level he was running at over hurdles last year, and that was a pretty good level. Any improvement on that will put him bang in the mix here.”