Tag Archive for: Patrick Mullins

Sharjah swoops late for fourth Matheson Hurdle verdict

Sharjah finished with a flourish to secure a historic fourth successive victory in the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Only Istabraq and Hurricane Fly had previously won the Grade One contest on four occasions – and even that legendary pair did not manage to win four on the spin.

The Willie Mullins-trained Sharjah was not even favourite when triumphing in 2018, 2019 and 2020 – but off the back of winning his second Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, the eight-year-old was the 5-6 market leader on his return to Foxrock.

Ridden with plenty confidence by the trainer’s son Patrick, Sharjah began to make inroads racing down the back straight, but was still only fourth rounding the turn for home.

He briefly had to be cajoled into contention, but soon came back on the bridle before throwing down his challenge to Zanahiyr after the dolled off final flight.

Zanahiyr refused to go down without a fight, but Sharjah eventually won the argument by a neck.

Willie Mullins said: “That was not good for the heart!

“Patrick said he wasn’t as sharp as other years and then with the last hurdle missing, he got pushed out onto yesterday’s ground and that just blunted his speed in the last furlong.

“He managed to do it anyhow and it was a terrific race. He definitely wasn’t as sharp as other years, but when you win a race four years running, you can’t expect a horse to be improving.

Sharjah battles Zanahiyr at Leopardstown
Sharjah battles Zanahiyr at Leopardstown (Donall Farmer/PA)

“He’s been a spectacular horse – fantastic for Patrick and Rich and Susannah (Ricci, owners). I think Rich likes Patrick riding him and he’s a special horse for that partnership.”

In each of the past two seasons Sharjah has gone on to disappoint in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in early February before bouncing back to finish second in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

On whether he could miss the Irish Champion Hurdle this time around, Mullins added: “We might do that and go straight to Cheltenham, but I’ll have a word with Rich and Susannah and see.

“It might be the thing to do as it doesn’t seem to work for him.”

Coral cut Sharjah to 8-1 from 10-1 to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham at the fourth attempt, having been brought down in 2019 prior to chasing home Epatante in 2020 and Honeysuckle last season.

History-seeking Sharjah all set for Matheson Hurdle

Patrick Mullins hopes Sharjah can match Istabraq and Hurricane Fly in winning a fourth Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown on Wednesday.

The eight-year-old faces five rivals in the two-mile Grade One contest, including Zanahiyr and Echoes In Rain, who filled the places behind him in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last month.

Sharjah is one of three representatives from the Willie Mullins yard and the trainer’s assistant and son continues his association with the five-time Grade One-winning hurdler.

Echoes In Rain will be ridden by Paul Townend, while Saint Roi, the mount of Rachael Blackmore, was fourth in the race last year and is having a first run since February when he was fourth to Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Mullins jnr said: “We’re really looking forward to Sharjah, he seems to love it in Leopardstown.

“If he could emulate Hurricane Fly and Istabraq that would be very, very special.

“It looks like the ground will be good for him, he’s done really well since since the Morgiana and it’s all systems go – I can’t wait.”

He added: “Echoes In Rain is better than her run at Punchestown. I think the slow pace counted against her there. I’d be wary of her.

“Saint Roi we all think is better than he showed last year. Obviously he’s had a long lay-off, but neither of them would be a surprise winner.

“They’re both Grade One horses and we’re very happy with both of them at home.”

Gordon Elliott saddles the other three in the line-up, with Zanahiyr having to find three lengths with Sharjah on their Morgiana Hurdle running. Petit Mouchoir and Felix Desjy complete the line-up.

Ferny Hollow in top form for eagerly-awaited second start over fences

Connections of Ferny Hollow have complete faith in the horse’s ability as he steps into Grade One company on only his second race over fences.

The 2020 Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner, owned by Cheveley Park Stud and trained by Willie Mullins, heads for the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday on the back of victory at Punchestown three weeks ago.

The six-year-old was sent off the 8-15 favourite for a beginners’ chase over two miles and a furlong and duly disposed of 14 rivals, with Henry de Bromhead’s Coeur Sublime, who reopposes, beaten four lengths in second place.

Ferny Hollow after winning the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival
Ferny Hollow after winning the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival (Andrew Matthews/PA)

That was his first race since he defeated Bob Olinger on his only sole start over hurdles in November 2020.

Ferny Hollow is reported to have thrived for the run, though he has a tougher assignment on his hands as he has to give 13lb to Riviere D’etel.

The four-year-old filly is unbeaten in three starts over fences – the last two victories coming at graded level, the most recent of those when part of a magnificent seven Gordon Elliott winners at Navan earlier this month.

“Ferny Hollow came out of Punchestown fantastic,” said Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father.

“I think Riviere D’etel going hard in front will help him jump and settle. He has to give her a lot of weight, but I think his class will tell.”

The Closutton stable have a second string to their bow in Grand Bornand, who made a pleasing switch to the bigger obstacles with victory at Galway in July.

“He’s going to have to step up on his form, but he looks a better chaser than he was a hurdler and it would be no surprise if he can get some prize-money,” said Mullins.

Oliver McKiernan’s Gallant John Joe will be in action after a 635-day absence. The eight-year-old had useful form in the 2019-20 campaign, finishing third to Notebook in the Grade One Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown. Zoffanien, trained by Denis Hogan, completes the six-strong field.

Headlining the undercard is the Grade Two Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle, where Gordon Elliott’s Fil Dor renews rivalry with the Noel Meade-trained Lunar Power.

A length and a quarter separated the pair in a Grade Three at Fairyhouse last month.

Lunar Power (left) and Fil Dor locked in action
Lunar Power (left) and Fil Dor locked in action (Niall Carson/PA)

Elliott, who also runs Britzka, said of Fil Dor: “He has a 3lb penalty for beating Noel Meade’s horse a length and a quarter the last day and hopefully we can overcome that. He’s a nice horse.

“He’s a big horse and with a summer’s grass next year he could be anything. He’s a nice horse to look forward to.”

Meade said of his runner: “He’s in good form and we’re happy with him. He ran well the last day, but he still got beat.

“The ground the last day would maybe have suited him better than it would have suited Gordon’s horse, I’d say softer ground is probably more to his advantage.”

Sharjah all set in bid to join the greats

Sharjah is all set to bid to equal Istabraq and Hurricane Fly’s record of four wins in the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 29.

Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old, who has also been second in the previous two Champion Hurdles to Epatante and Honeysuckle, got his season off to the perfect start when winning the Morgiana Hurdle in November.

He reserves his best for Leopardstown at Christmas, however, and regular rider Patrick Mullins feels the good ground and the nature of the track at Leopardstown suit him perfectly.

“It is quite dry at Leopardstown, the drainage works very well and there is a long straight with a long even home bend which gives him something to aim at. I think it is the ground that really suits him,” he said.

“It’s funny, the track they use in February is much wider on the track and gets watered during the summer and he doesn’t seem to operate on that at all. But the inside, he just seems to hop off it.

“The mare (Honeysuckle) is the one to beat (in March) and is very hard to beat but horses aren’t machines and if anything happened on the day, he might get her. But she doesn’t go at Christmas and that makes life a lot easier for Sharjah.”

Allaho makes all to take Durkan honours on seasonal bow

Allaho led home a one-two-three for Willie Mullins in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.

A brilliant winner of last season’s Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, Allaho was a 7-2 shot to make a successful reappearance in a race in which the champion trainer saddled seven of the 10 runners.

Sent straight to the lead by the trainer’s son Patrick Mullins, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned seven-year-old jumped well in the main to keep his rivals at bay.

Another Mullins inmate, Asterion Forlonge, looked set to mount a bold challenge as he was travelling well before unshipping his rider three fences from home.

Janidil then emerged as the biggest threat from the home turn, but despite tiring, Allaho dug deep to see off his stablemate’s challenge by two lengths.

Perennial bridesmaid Melon was best of the rest of third, with 7-4 favourite Envoi Allen ultimately disappointing in sixth.

Allaho strides on for Patrick Mullins
Allaho strides on for Patrick Mullins (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mullins said of the winner: “I was delighted how he fought back. When Asterion Forlonge came up alongside him I thought that would take the stuffing out of him. Each challenger that came, he kept pulling it out.

“He raced very lazily today which is not like him and he was going a bit to his left which is not like him, so we will have to look at all that for the future.”

Allaho was winning on his seasonal bow for the first time and Mullins expects all of his runners to come on for the outing, with the winner’s class proving crucial.

He added: “Our horses are not fully wound up yet and I was hoping his ability would pull him through. Taking on horses with a run under their belt can be very tough.

“I was very happy with the way they all performed and hoping they will all improve from that.”

Patrick Mullins purring at chance to partner Chacun Pour Soi in Tingle Creek cracker

Patrick Mullins is all set for his first ever ride at Sandown on Saturday in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase – in the enviable position of getting the leg-up on the highest-rated jumps horse in training in Chacun Pour Soi.

The best two-miler chasers flying over the Railway fences is always one of the highlights of the season and despite the absence of Shishkin and only five runners, this year’s race promises to be another excellent spectacle.

With Paul Townend still on the sidelines, Willie Mullins gave his son and assistant trainer the possibility of good news on Wednesday evening, before confirming on Thursday morning. And the leading amateur could not believe his luck.

He is no stranger to success at the highest level in the saddle, partnering Sharjah to a handful of Grade Ones over hurdles among countless other big-race successes, and he can count on the experience of partnering Douvan, another top-class two-miler, to victory.

“I’ve never ridden at Sandown but I’ve always wanted to, this will be the ultimate, I imagine,” said Mullins.

“I can’t wait, I’m very excited. The Tingle Creek is one of the classic National Hunt races, so to be riding a horse like Chacun Pour Soi in it is every jockey’s dream.

“I sat on him on Tuesday for the first time at the Curragh and he is like driving a Rolls-Royce.

“I won a Grade One on Douvan at Leopardstown. He is tall and narrow, whereas Chacun is wider – but both of them have very high cruising speeds and both are quality animals.

“It’s only a small field, but you’ve got Nube Negra who was second in the Champion Chase and Greaneteen who won at Sandown at the end of the season – it’s a very exciting race.”

Mullins senior nominated the race last week as the likely destination for Chacun Por Soi, but until declarations nothing was certain with the Hilly Way at Cork and the John Durkan at Punchestown also among his options.

“There were three big races this weekend and we had three horses for them in Energumene and Allaho as well, but we always felt Sandown would suit Chacun, we’d send Energumene to Cork and Allaho to Punchestown and that is what we’re sticking with,” he said.

“He’ll need to be at his best, but for that sort of prize-money and this level of a race you expect that – you don’t expect freebies.

“This is a feature race and we like a runner in it – and hopefully a winner. We’ve been lucky enough with Un De Sceaux and hope to win it again. We’d have preferred more rain, but I’m sure the opposition would too, hopefully the watering through the week will make it fine.”

It has been a quieter than usual start to the season for Mullins given the prevailing good ground. But he won the Royal Bond Hurdle last weekend and his big guns take centre stage now.

It has been a slow start to the season for Willie Mullins because of quick ground
It has been a slow start to the season for Willie Mullins because of quick ground (Simon Cooper/PA)

“This is probably the first weekend we’ve had quite a few runners so we’ll get an idea of where our horses stand. The few horses we have been running have been running well so they are probably advanced,” he said.

“I was very happy last weekend with Statuaire winning and a lot of horses running well. I’m hoping this is the start of our winter season, but I’d still like a lot more rain.”

Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra has the advantage of already having a run this season, a winning return in the Shloer Chase, and was in front of Chacun Pour Soi in the Queen Mother Champion Chase before the tables were turned at Punchestown.

“Going to the Shloer was a bit of a change of plan. Two weeks before the race I saw the forecast was going to go our way so I thought we have got to be in there,” said Skelton.

“He travelled through it (slower ground) at Cheltenham very well and I’ve made no secrets about how fast he is. He travelled and jumped beautifully at Cheltenham the last day. You couldn’t have asked for much more.

“Aside from us and Chacun Pour Soi, Paul (Nicholls) has primed Greaneteen for it so it should be a great race.

“We are looking to get that Grade One by his name and that is what we are trying to do for all of them. It is great to have a runner in a Grade One with a real chance.”

Nicholls’ two runners, Greaneteen and Hitman, both ran in the Haldon Gold Cup, with Hitman coming out on top when second to Eldorado Allen. But he is 17lb worse off at the weights now.

“Greaneteen goes on any ground and loves Sandown having finished second in the Tingle Creek last year before beating Altior in the Celebration Chase,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“In between he wasn’t far behind Nube Negra in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham. Greaneteen needed the run behind Eldorado Allen in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter recently and is a lot lighter, tighter and sharper now.

“Hitman looked all over the winner as he jumped the last in front at Exeter before he idled a bit on the run in and was collared late on.

“His jumping was phenomenal, but he is still learning about racing and needs to learn to buckle down when he comes off the bridle. It will come with experience and the stronger the race is run the better he will go. I’m hoping that fitting a tongue tie can also help.”

Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness, the mount of Rachael Blackmore, completes the field.

Talent wins the day in Velka Pardubicka – but disappointment for Patrick Mullins

Talent made it third time lucky when getting up in the closing stages to lift the 131st Velka Pardubicka at Pardubice, as Patrick Mullins made an early exit.

Seventh in 2019 and fourth 12 months ago, the 10-year-old finally had his day in the famous cross-country chase over four miles two and a half furlongs in the Czech Republic.

Trained by Hana Kabelkova, Talent stayed on stoutly on the run-in to grab Evzen and pull away for victory in the hands of Pavel Slozil.

There was drama in the early stages when leading Irish amateur Mullins was unseated from Kaiserwalzer at fence four, the daunting Taxis ditch. Mullins was able to walk away none the worse. Player was also a casualty there.

Mullins said: “I’m gutted that we went out at the Taxis fence. Will take it on the chin, but very disappointed.”

Then at the road crossing, a loose horse caused chaos with Sztorm among those carried out and Beau Rochelais badly hampered. Theophilos, the winner in 2019, fell at the mini Taxis as the field continued to thin out.

As the race took shape as they headed towards the racecourse proper for the final few obstacles, Evzen made his bid for glory. He looked to have race sewn up, but Talent started to pull back the deficit and got his head in front close to the winning line.

Mr Spex was third with No Time To Lose fourth and last year’s winner Hegnus fifth. Nine of the 19 runners completed the course.

Patrick Mullins chasing Galway glory on first day of the Festival

Patrick Mullins gets another opportunity to finally break his duck in the prestigious Connacht Hotel Handicap on the opening day of the Galway Festival.

The most successful amateur jockey in the history of jump racing, Mullins is no stranger to big-race success, with his excellent CV including four winners at the Cheltenham Festival and multiple Grade One victories aboard equine superstars like Douvan, Faugheen and Un De Sceaux.

The 31-year-old has also won two of the last three Galway Hurdles on Sharjah (2018) and Aramon (2020), but victory in Monday evening’s 100,000 euro feature – one of the most renowned amateur races in the Irish calendar – has so far proved elusive.

Mullins said: “I think this is my 15th go at it!

“I suppose this race and the Champion Bumper in Punchestown are the two main amateur races of the year in Ireland. Willie (Mullins) won it once way back and Ruby (Walsh) won it once, so hopefully we can join them.”

Mullins junior will partner Hook Up in this year’s renewal. The Rich and Susannah Ricci-owned mare certainly appears to hold strong claims, having been placed at Grade One level over hurdles and run just three times on the Flat.

“I think only two winners in the last 20 years have carried more than 11 stone, so it’s a race for the light weights,” Mullins added.

“Hook Up is carrying 11st 1lb, which is kind of my minimum and puts her just above the right kind of weight bracket.

“She’s unexposed on the Flat and is not the most natural jumper, so I think she’s entitled to be a little bit better on the Flat than she is over hurdles.

“We’ve got a nice draw (stall eight) and we’re very happy with her at home, so she ticks plenty of boxes at the moment.”

Hook Up is just one of six contenders for the Mullins team.

Aubrey McMahon, who has already won the two-mile contest twice aboard the Mullins-trained pair of Whiskey Sour (2017) and Uradel (2018), will partner recent Curragh scorer Foveros, who is part-owned by the rider’s father Luke McMahon.

Jody Townend, who steered Great White Shark to victory two years ago, partners previous course winner Exchange Rate, with Royal Illusion (Tom Hamilton), Runrized (Elliot Ohgren) and My Sister Sarah (Jamie Codd) completing the Closutton sextet.

Mullins said: “I think Exchange Rate could be the one. I won on him at the Festival in 2017, he’s run very well off a mark of 89 in the past and he’s running off 82 on Monday with Jody Townend claiming 5lb. He could be very well-in.

“Aubrey McMahon is one of the few jockeys to have won it twice and maybe Foveros, with a nice light weight, could give him the hat-trick.”

Classic Getaway makes winning start for new connections

Expensive purchase Classic Getaway made a successful debut under rules in the concluding bumper at Tipperary on Tuesday.

Having impressed on his sole start in the point-to-point field in November, the five-year-old was bought for the eye-watering sum of £570,000 the following month by leading bloodstock agent Tom Malone and trainer Gordon Elliott.

With owners Cheveley Park Stud removing all their horses in Elliott’s care in early March, Classic Getaway joined Willie Mullins and was unsurprisingly all the rage on his first start for the champion trainer in the Junction INH Flat Race.

Ridden by champion amateur Patrick Mullins, the imposing gelding travelled well for much of the two-and-a-half-mile contest before easing clear early in the home straight.

The 4-9 favourite looked green when asked to go about his business, but was ultimately in a different league to his rivals – passing the post with 15 lengths in hand over 40-1 shot Bolintlea.

The winning rider said: “He is a beautiful-looking horse, and I think he was a little bit more expensive than a Rolls Royce Phantom! But I’m pretty sure Mrs (Patricia) Thompson (owner of Cheveley Park) will get more fun out of him than a Rolls Royce.

“He’s a big baby and that’s why I was keen to teach him and get him to stride out. He is a big baby at home for a five-year-old who had a point to point run and he’s not a bumper horse.

“I imagine he’ll go jumping later in the season – he wouldn’t have run, only the ground was so wet and we said we’d get a run into him.

“Willie didn’t rush him and let him settle in. He didn’t have to run this season, but it just happened with the weather.

“I think he’ll continue to improve mentally.”

Unstoppable Mullins happy to end season on a high

Willie Mullins was planning a moderate celebration on Saturday evening after a superb Punchestown Festival capped another championship-winning season.

Mullins was crowned the leading trainer for the 15th time, banking over €5million in prize money to finish well ahead of the currently-suspended Gordon Elliott in second and Henry de Bromhead in third.

The Closutton handler enjoyed an exceptional week in County Kildare, notching a record 19 victories across the five days with a slew of Grade Ones to boot.

While Mullins was thrilled to break his benchmark at the meeting, he lamented the lack of owners and crowds at the fixture due to current Covid-19 regulations.

Mullins said: “We’ve had a fantastic festival. It’s great to have the support of the owners that we have and without them none of us could keep going at Closutton.

“They are the whole part of the team really with the investment they put in every year.

“Hopefully we can get owners back and then after that crowds back to inject a lot of atmosphere that is missing at the moment.”

Mullins endured some disappointments at Cheltenham, with the likes of Chacun Pour Soi and Al Boum Photo falling short, but Punchestown firmly reversed those fortunes.

He said: “I was so disappointed with how a lot of them ran in Cheltenham and we changed a few things coming here.

“I said I’d throw the whole lot at it, which we did, and it seems to have paid off.”

Patrick Mullins is champion amateur again
Patrick Mullins is champion amateur again (Niall Carson/PA)

There may have been plenty of champagne moments for Mullins since Tuesday, but a low-key gathering would mark another fruitful campaign.

He added: “Unfortunately it’ll be the usual, around the kitchen table.

“We’ll have a glass of something and I’m looking forward to a few easy days after the season that was in it.”

Champions Jody and Paul Townend
Champions Jody and Paul Townend (Niall Carson/PA)

The Townend family had double reason to celebrate as not only was Mullins’ retained rider Paul Townend confirmed as champion jockey on Friday evening after seeing off the challenge of Rachael Blackmore, but his sister Jody also secured the title of champion lady amateur rider.

Jody Townend was presented with the Mary Hyde Perpetual Cup in a ceremony at Punchestown and they become the first brother and sister to win championship titles in the same season.

Mullins’ son Patrick was crowned leading amateur for the 13th time, with Simon Torrens taking the conditional riders’ title.

Simon Torrens is champion conditional
Simon Torrens is champion conditional (Niall Carson/PA)

JP McManus is the champion owner for the first time in seven years and for the 18th time in all, with the likes of Galway Plate winner Early Doors, Dublin Racing Festival winners Off You Go, Drop The Anchor and A Wave Of The Sea, Leinster National winner Scoir Mear and the Fairyhouse Easter Festival winners Janidil and Hearts Are Trumps helping him to victory.

Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh said: “Many congratulations to all of our National Hunt champions.

“In far from ideal circumstances, this has been a National Hunt season to remember. The outstanding successes at both Cheltenham and Aintree will live long in the memory, however the season featured thrilling performances throughout, showcasing the depth of talent on hand.

“It is a necessary that our major festivals have all taken place behind closed doors, but hopefully as the vaccination programme accelerates, we can look forward to some light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dream return for Klassical with Stayers success

Klassical Dream made light of a long absence as he ran out a hugely impressive winner of the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown.

A ready winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2019, when he also followed up at this meeting, his career hit the buffers last season.

Sent off an odds-on favourite in two Grade One outings, he was beaten in both, most recently in the Matheson Hurdle in December 2019 when last of five.

However, having his first outing for nearly 500 days, there was plenty of market confidence behind Patrick Mullins’ mount which saw him sent off at 5-1 in a strong field.

Patrick Mullins (left) and Klassical Dream celebrate
Patrick Mullins (left) and Klassical Dream celebrate (Brian Lawless/PA)

The favourite was Cheltenham winner Flooring Porter but he got very worked up down at the start, missed the break, raced keenly throughout and by the second last he was beating a retreat.

French Dynamite was left in front, but all the while Mullins crept closer on Klassical Dream, who cruised to the front on the bridle.

Stablemate James Du Berlais came out of the pack to chase him home, but was beaten nine lengths. Ronald Pump was third.

Willie Mullins with his Stayers Hurdle trophy
Willie Mullins with his Stayers Hurdle trophy (Brian Lawless/PA)

Patrick Mullins said: “I can’t say I’m surprised. He’s a very high-class horse, it just went wrong for him over two miles.

“I know he hadn’t run for a long time, but he was ready to run at Christmas and he got a small setback and then it was too late to go chasing.

“Eilish Byrne deserves great credit as she rides him out all the time and he’s not easy.

“I wasn’t surprised how well he settled, he had a hood on and we went a good gallop. The false start wasn’t ideal, but he handled it all right.”

Mullins, who moved three clear of Jamie Codd in the race to be champion amateur, added: “I’m getting to pick up rides in Grade Ones, I’m in a very lucky position and Jamie doesn’t have that kind of ammunition and firepower.

“When you are riding for Willie Mullins at Punchestown, it makes the job a lot easier.

“I’ve been lucky enough to win the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and now the Stayers here. I was second in the Gold Cup on Djakadam one year, so hopefully I might get the full set at some stage.”

Mullins mentioned the French Champion Hurdle as a possible option for the winner.

Echoes In Rain pours it on to kickstart Mullins’ five-timer

Exciting mare Echoes In Rain kickstarted a remarkable five-timer for Willie Mullins on day one of the Punchestown Festival as she beat the boys impressively in the eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle.

Mullins went on to score with Chacun Pour Soi in the feature William Hill Champion Chase and Colreevy in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase – to make it a clean sweep of the card’s three Grade Ones – as well as Jazzaway and Adamantly Chosen.

The Closutton trainer had saddled seven previous winners of the Champion Novice Hurdle – including Hurricane Fly (2009), Faugheen (2014) and Douvan (2015).

This year he fired a twin assault, with dual Grade Two winner Echoes In Rain the 8-13 favourite under his son Patrick Mullins, and Blue Lord next best in the market at 15-8 in the hands of Paul Townend.

Blue Lord set out to make all the running, with Echoes In Rain always in his slipstream.

The favourite took the lead with relative ease on the run to the final flight, however, before kicking just over three lengths clear on the run-in.

Colonel Mustard (40-1) finished with a flourish to beat Blue Lord to the runner-up spot.

Mullins said: “It’s a great start to the week for Patrick and for Echoes In Rain’s connections.

“She is a filly that’s improving as she learns about racing. She just made one mistake, and Patrick blamed himself because he didn’t want her to jump it as well as she was setting herself up to jump it because she was going to land there too soon, so he let her fiddle it.

Patrick (left) and Willie Mullins with Echoes In Rain
Patrick (left) and Willie Mullins with Echoes In Rain (Niall Carson/PA)

“She’s a filly who has now won at the top level, and hopefully that’s where she’ll stay for the next couple of years.

“She could run on the Flat, but it’s taken us two years to settle her down, so I doubt I’m going to do that.

“I’d say we’ll probably stick to this jumping game. She’s learning how to pace herself jumping now, and you’d have to be happy with that.”

Asked whether he felt Echoes In Rain could develop into a Champion Hurdle contender, he added: “She’s improving every day and with every run and looks like she’s setting herself up to get a chance at it.”

Jazzaway (centre) in action at Punchestown
Jazzaway (centre) in action at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

The champion trainer soon doubled up, with the Conor McNamara-ridden Jazzaway coming out on top in a thrilling finish to the 50,000 euro Killashee Hotel Handicap Hurdle.

The 10-1 shot looked likely to be caught by the fast-finishing Call Me Lyreen, but clung on by a short head.

Mullins said: “I’ve lost a bottle of champagne to Richie Galway (racecourse manager) because he said we’d held on and I said we hadn’t. He said ‘I bet you a bottle of Bollinger’ and I said ‘fair enough’!

“It’s great for Conor, claiming his 3lb, to get a victory like that – and great for the owners.

“Jazzaway will be kept on the go. We’ll look for more opportunities for her, if we can.”

Willie Mullins enjoyed another excellent day at Punchestown
Willie Mullins enjoyed an excellent day at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

After the brilliant Chacun Pour Soi made it three winners for the Mullins team, Adamantly Chosen provided a fourth with a debut victory in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper.

Ridden by Jody Townend – sister of champion jockey Paul – the 5-1 shot got the better of Springwell Bay by three-quarters of a length.

Mullins said: “Jody was very good on the horse. He was one of the bargain purchases of the sales (cost 24,000 euros), which just shows you don’t have to have huge money to get the winner.

“The whole family like winning around here – we sourced Adamant Approach after seeing him in a schooling bumper here. I think a half-brother to this horse might have won around here, too.”

Mullins made it five in succession with Colreevy – but he was not the only trainer who had a day to remember, because Philip Rothwell also saddled two winners.

Cousin Harry (near side) winning at Punchestown
Cousin Harry (near side) winning at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

Cousin Harry was a 25-1 scorer in the opening Have The Conversation Say Yes To Organ Donation Novice Handicap Hurdle, before 14-1 shot Singing Banjo landed the Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase For The Ladies Perpetual Cup over the cross-country course.

After his first winner, Rothwell said: “I’m absolutely thrilled. We have three runners today, but I don’t have a huge number for the week.

“We’ve been really happy with Cousin Harry. He won very well in Navan and then we tried him over two-and-a-half in Fairyhouse. It was arguable whether he didn’t get the trip there or ran too keen.

“This fella has been great this year.”

Following Singing Banjo’s success, he added: “That’s absolutely magic. It’s great for the Walsh family (owners), and this has very little to do with me.

“He comes over a few weeks before he runs, and we ran him in a couple of hunter chases to have him ready for today.”

Mullins, with his son Patrick riding, was narrowly foiled in the last – by his nephew, as Emmet Mullins’ Crowns Major prevented runner-up Hara Kiri bringing up the six-timer.

The Japanese-bred four-year-old was sent off 11-2 to make a winning debut, and duly did so in the Irish Field – We Are All About The Horse INH Flat Race.

Hara Kiri challenged out wide from well off the pace, but was kept at bay by two and a half lengths, and the winning trainer said: “It’s been a long road and it’s finally paid off for me.

“We bought him in Japan as a foal four years ago. It was one of my crazier ideas.

“We were just a little worried about the ground with the rain, being Japanese bred.

“(Jockey) Philip (Byrnes) was very good – I told him to take his time and drop him in and pick the best of the ground. I know Patrick came wide for ground – but in these four-year-old races Philip got the rail, and that’s a huge advantage.”

Echoes In Rain pours it on at Punchestown

Exciting mare Echoes In Rain beat the boys with an impressive display in the eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

Trainer Willie Mullins had saddled seven previous winners of the Grade One contest, with Hurricane Fly (2009), Faugheen (2014) and Douvan (2015) among those on the roll of honour.

This year the Closutton handler fired a twin assault, with dual Grade Two winner Echoes In Rain the 8-13 favourite under the trainer’s son Patrick Mullins, and Blue Lord next best in the market at 15-8 in the hands of Paul Townend.

Bidding to bounce back from a final-flight fall when seemingly booked for second behind stablemate Appreciate It in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, Blue Lord set out to make all the running, with Echoes In Rain always in his slipstream.

The favourite took over the lead with relative ease on the run to the final flight, however, before kicking just over three lengths clear on the run-in.

Colonel Mustard (40-1) finished with a flourish to beat Blue Lord to the runner-up spot late on and deny Mullins a one-two.

Mullins said: “It’s a great start to the week for Patrick and for Echoes In Rain’s connections.

“She is a filly that’s improving as she learns about racing. She just made one mistake, and Patrick blamed himself because he didn’t want her to jump it as well as she was setting herself up to jump it because she was going to land there too soon, so he let her fiddle it.

Patrick (left) and Willie Mullins with Echoes In Rain
Patrick (left) and Willie Mullins with Echoes In Rain (Niall Carson/PA)

“She’s a filly who has now won at the top level, and hopefully that’s where she’ll stay for the next couple of years.

“She could run on the Flat, but it’s taken us two years to settle her down, so I doubt I’m going to do that.

“I’d say we’ll probably stick to this jumping game. She’s learning how to pace herself jumping now, and you’d have to be happy with that.”

Asked whether he felt Echoes In Rain could develop into a Champion Hurdle contender, he added: “She’s improving every day and with every run and looks like she’s setting herself up to get a chance at it.”

Jazzaway (centre) in action at Punchestown
Jazzaway (centre) in action at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

The champion trainer soon doubled up, with the Conor McNamara-ridden Jazzaway coming out on top in a thrilling finish to the 50,000 euro Killashee Hotel Handicap Hurdle.

The 10-1 shot looked likely to be caught by the fast-finishing Call Me Lyreen as the post loomed, but clung on by a short head.

Mullins said: “I’ve lost a bottle of champagne to Richie Galway (racecourse manager) because he said we’d held on and I said we hadn’t. He said ‘I bet you a bottle of Bollinger’ and I said ‘fair enough’!

“It’s great for Conor, claiming his 3lb, to get a victory like that – and great for the owners.

“Jazzaway will be kept on the go. We’ll look for more opportunities for her, if we can.”

Willie Mullins enjoyed another excellent day at Punchestown
Willie Mullins enjoyed another excellent day at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

After the brilliant Chacun Pour Soi made it three winners on the card for the Mullins team in the William Hill Champion Chase, Adamantly Chosen brought up the yard’s four-timer with a debut victory in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper.

Ridden by Jody Townend – sister of champion jockey Paul – the 5-1 shot got the better of Springwell Bay by three-quarters of a length.

Mullins said: “Jody was very good on the horse. He was one of the bargain purchases of the sales (cost 24,000 euros), which just shows you don’t have to have huge money to get the winner.

“The whole family like winning around here – we sourced Adamant Approach after seeing him in a schooling bumper here. I think a half-brother to this horse might have won around here, too.”

Mullins made it five on the day with Colreevy in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase.

Cousin Harry (near side) winning at Punchestown
Cousin Harry (near side) winning at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

Trainer Philip Rothwell enjoyed a memorable afternoon by saddling two winners.

Cousin Harry was a 25-1 scorer in the opening Have The Conversation Say Yes To Organ Donation Novice Handicap Hurdle, before 14-1 shot Singing Banjo landed the Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase For The Ladies Perpetual Cup over the cross-country course.

After his first winner, Rothwell said: “I’m absolutely thrilled. We have three runners today, but I don’t have a huge number for the week.

“We’ve been really happy with Cousin Harry. He won very well in Navan and then we tried him over two-and-a-half in Fairyhouse. It was arguable whether he didn’t get the trip there or ran too keen.

“This fella has been great this year.”

Following Singing Banjo’s success, he added: “That’s absolutely magic. It’s great for the Walsh family (owners), and this has very little to do with me.

“He comes over a few weeks before he runs, and we ran him in a couple of hunter chases to have him ready for today.”

Livelovelaugh turns Topham into a procession

Livelovelaugh turned the Randox Topham Handicap Chase into a procession for Patrick and Willie Mullins.

Having set off at what seemed a particularly brisk pace in the early stages, Livelovelaugh had burned everything else off crossing the Melling Road.

Mullins had got his mount into a fantastic rhythm, but when the pursuers began to close up as the field raced back on to the racecourse proper, it was a question of how much was going to be left in the tank.

The 11-year-old briefly looked in trouble – but Mullins had saved plenty on the 15-2 shot and put the race to bed approaching the Elbow.

Livelovelaugh had run in the Grand National itself two years ago and looked a non-stayer in 11th behind Tiger Roll.

Pink Eyed Pedro was second at 33-1, four and a half lengths away, with Senior Citizen third and Snugsborough Hall fourth.

Mullins, who replaced the injured Paul Townend, was emulating his father, who won over the fences aboard the Paddy Mullins-trained Atha Cliath in 1983 Foxhunters.

He steps in for Townend again in the Rich and Susannah Ricci colours on Burrows Saint in the big one on Saturday.

Mullins said: “Incredible. Every jockey wants to win over the Grand National fences. It’s something you’d like to do before you retire. My father did it on Atha Cliath in the Foxhunters’ in 1983. I got some spin there. If I could bottle that I’d take it home.

“It’s great to get one on the board the day before tomorrow. I wanted to get out, get away and over the first four fences near the font rank and get a break before the bend and let him jump and enjoy himself.

Livelovelaugh gave Patrick Mullins a brilliant ride
Livelovelaugh gave Patrick Mullins a brilliant ride (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I hadn’t asked him to go forward. He was just enjoying himself.

“When I jumped the third-last I had a look behind and was surprised how far clear I was. I wanted to get a little breather into him, but not give away my advantage altogether.

“The horse was very brave, but he’s a real example of the Aintree factor.”

He added: “It’s indescribable (to ride a winner over those fences). I feel very sorry for anyone who can’t experience it and I feel so lucky to have experienced it.

“As a kid you’re always watching and there is always a horse here every year that does that. You think ‘what must that feel like’.”

Patrick Mullins delighted with supersub opportunity on Burrows Saint

One man’s loss can be another’s gain – and that is certainly true in the case of Patrick Mullins, who has come in for the plum spare ride on Burrows Saint in the Randox Grand National.

Mullins replaces Irish champion jockey Paul Townend, who picked up a foot injury at Fairyhouse last weekend which also saw him miss Monday’s Irish Grand National.

In the immediate aftermath, Willie Mullins was in no rush to rule Townend out of Aintree – but as each declaration stage passed for Thursday’s and Friday’s cards, hopes faded he would make it back in time.

Instead, the champion trainer has called on his son – who has ridden more winners as an amateur in Ireland than anyone else and if not for his battle with the scales would surely be a professional.

Looking forward to Saturday, Mullins said: “It’s fantastic to pick up the spin on him.

“Obviously Paul hasn’t recovered from the fall he had in Fairyhouse.

Burrows Saint won the Irish National two years ago
Burrows Saint won the Irish National two years ago (PA Wire)

“The weight (10st 13lb) is quite light for me, but it’s just enough.

“He’s in great form at home. I got a sit on him in Haydock this (Thursday) morning – and he ticks a lot of the boxes.

“He’s the right age as an eight-year-old; he has the right kind of weight and he’s progressive, with only nine runs over fences.

“I’m really excited to be sitting on him.”

With the doubt over Townend and his weight issue, it was a case of Burrows Saint or nothing for Mullins – but he was never counting his chickens, especially after amateurs were ruled out of last month’s Cheltenham Festival because of coronavirus restrictions.

“I’ve lived with Willie long enough to know not to ask any questions and to just wait until declarations,” he said.

“It was in the back of my head that I might get the ride. I saw the weight was doable, and I was watching it from then and got confirmation this morning.

“I did not expect to be able to ride a horse with a live chance in the Grand National. Ever since I was seven or eight and I read a book on the history of the Grand National, this was the race.

“It was disappointing not to be at Cheltenham. As it turned out, I didn’t miss a winner, which made it slightly easier.

“To get a ride in the National more than makes up for that, definitely.

“Some people like the Gold Cup, but this was always the race I wanted to have a crack at – it does not get any better than this.”

No amateur has won the National since Marcus Armytage on Mr Frisk in 1990, but Burrows Saint is second-favourite with some bookmakers based on the fact he won the Irish Grand National two years ago.

“In the National, game plans can go out of the window pretty quickly, but in the Irish National Ruby (Walsh) rode him fairly handy and with a bit of daylight. After that, we’ll see where Lady Luck takes you,” said Mullins.

“I was second on a horse called Boxer George in the Foxhunters (in 2011). That’s the closest I’ve come to a winner over the fences.”

Secret Reprieve missed the cut by two
Secret Reprieve missed the cut by two (David Davies/PA)

Bristol De Mai topped the weights after the final 48-hour stage, which left Evan Williams’ Welsh National winner Secret Reprieve as only second reserve.

“We’ve had a lot worse news regarding horses – we knew there was a c Read more