Paul Townend to have further checks on foot injury after Fairyhouse fall

Paul Townend will see a doctor later this week to determine the extent of a foot injury picked up at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

Townend – who is due to partner second-favourite Burrows Saint in the Randox Grand National at Aintree – was riding Egality Mans for Willie Mullins in the Colm Quinn BMW Novice Hurdle when departing at the third-last, bringing down stablemate Power Of Pause ridden by Bryan Cooper, who escaped injury.

He was taken to Blanchardstown Hospital for precautionary X-rays and missed his mounts on Irish National day.

Rachael Blackmore enjoyed a superb Cheltenham and is hot on the heels of Paul Townend in the jockeys' title race
Rachael Blackmore enjoyed a superb Cheltenham and is hot on the heels of Paul Townend in the jockeys’ title race (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Giving an update on Monday after Stormy Ireland won the Underwriting Exchange Hurdle, in which Townend was replaced by Danny Mullins, Mullins said: “He’s going to have another visit with his doctor during the week.

“We’ll take it bit by bit and see how he goes before we make any further decisions. That’s where we are.”

Townend started the week 10 winners clear (95-85) of Rachael Blackmore in defence of his Irish jump jockeys’ title, with the championship set to conclude with the final day of the Punchestown Festival on May 1.

Paul Townend to miss Irish National card

Champion jockey Paul Townend has been ruled out of his rides on Boylesports Irish Grand National day at Fairyhouse.

Townend is awaiting further scans to assess damage to a foot injury he picked up in a fall on Sunday.

He was riding Egality Mans for Willie Mullins in the Grade Two Colm Quinn BMW Novice Hurdle when coming down three flights from home, bringing down stablemate Power Of Pause ridden by Bryan Cooper, who escaped injury.

Townend was taken to Blanchardstown Hospital for precautionary x-rays but an update on Sunday evening from the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s chief medical officer Dr Jennifer Pugh, posted on the IHRB’s Twitter account, said: “Paul Townend is waiting on a further scan to assess a foot injury sustained at Fairyhouse this afternoon and he will not be riding at Fairyhouse tomorrow (Monday).”

Townend was due to ride Agusta Gold for Mullins in the Irish National along with Stormy Ireland in the Underwriting Exchange Hurdle and Easy Game in the Devenish Chase.

Echoes In Rain impresses with Fairyhouse victory

Echoes In Rain scooted to a wide-margin victory in the Paddy Kehoe Suspended Ceilings Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

The Willie Mullins-trained mare was bidding for her second successive victory at Grade Two level following a comprehensive display at Naas last month and could hardly have been more impressive in the hands of Paul Townend.

Anchored at the rear of the field for much of the two-mile journey, the keen-going five-year-old made ground to move onto the heels of the leaders before the home turn.

While her rivals were hard at work, Echoes In Rain was still full of running early in the straight under a motionless Townend – and once given her head, she readily pulled 15 lengths clear.

Mullins, winning the race for a seventh time from the last eight runnings, also saddled the runner-up M C Muldoon.

He said: “She’s got plenty of talent, but she just needs to settle. She’s settling and learning all the time.

“We didn’t want to bring her to Cheltenham for the Mares’ Hurdle because I thought she might boil over.

“In better races you can settle her in behind a bit more.

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“She’s improving all the time, so we’ll go on to Punchestown now.”

Ashdale Bob jumps the final flight in front at Fairyhouse
Ashdale Bob jumps the final flight in front at Fairyhouse (Niall Carson/PA)

There was a far tighter finish to the other Grade Two on the card – the Colm Quinn BMW Novice Hurdle.

With 4-5 favourite Gentlemansgame a little disappointing in third, it was left to Jessica Harrington’s 10-1 shot Ashdale Bob and 12-1 chance Decimation to fight out a thrilling finish.

No quarter was given by either horse or jockey, but it was Ashdale Bob who edged a neck ahead at the line under Robbie Power.

Townend taken to hospital for a precautionary X-ray on his foot after fall from Egality Mans.

Kate Harrington, assistant to her mother, said: “We’re delighted with that. Robert said it was pure class that got him through it.

“He’s grown a lot since Christmas and is only starting to fill his frame. He’s going to be a lovely horse for next season.

“We’ll have a chat to mum and the owners, but I imagine we’ll probably leave him at that for this season – he could be a very exciting horse going over a fence next year.”

Harrington and Power doubled up with Jungle Junction in the following BoyleSports Novice Handicap Chase, while El Barra (5-4 favourite) had earlier won the Ryan’s Cleaning, Waste And Recycling Maiden Hurdle for the Mullins-Townend combination.

El Barra delighted favourite backers in the opening race
El Barra delighted favourite backers in the opening race (Niall Carson/PA)

The champion trainer’s assistant, David Casey, said: “The ground was nice for him and he was able to dictate in front

“He ran a bit keen in Leopardstown and disappointed, and probably the same a little bit in Naas.

“We dropped him back to two miles in Navan and he ran well. He’s putting it together.

“I’d imagine he’ll be over fences next season.”

Wild Shot finished fourth in the race, but was banned from running for 60 days and his rider Dylan Browne suspended for 21 days after the stewards ruled he had not gained the best possible placing at a subsequent inquiry.

Dark Raven was an impressive winner
Dark Raven was an impressive winner (Niall Carson/PA)

Following the success of Janidil in the Underwriting Exchange Gold Cup Novice Chase, Dark Raven made it four on the day for the Mullins team with victory in the closing Tattersalls Ireland George Mernagh Memorial Sales Bumper.

Sent off the 4-7 favourite, he hacked up by 11 lengths in the hands of Patrick Mullins.

Mullins dominates inaugural running of Mares’ Chase

Colreevy outpointed her Willie Mullins-trained stablemate Elimay in a pulsating finish to the inaugural running of the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham.

The two market leaders had the race to themselves at the business end and there was nothing between them over the final obstacles.

Colreevy (9-4), ridden by Paul Townend, gained the upper hand racing up the hill to hold the 6-5 favourite by half a length. Shattered Love was third, two and three-quarter lengths away.

They went a strong gallop from the start with Magic Of Light and Really Super making the early running, but once the tempo increased the race belonged to the Mullins pair who served up a treat in the Grade Two heat over an extended two and a half miles.

Townend said: “She’s very tough and only a novice, but you wouldn’t think that from the way she jumps.

“She was very keen with me early, so I elected to just let her on and attack her jumps and I thought myself and Mark (Walsh, on Elimay) were in a good duel from a long way out.

“It was nip and tuck and I felt rounding the home turn that I still had a life. My worry was that we’d gone at it and something was going to come late at us.

“The drop of rain we had last night definitely helped. She’s a Grade One winner in Ireland as well, so she’s a very valuable mare and where she goes will be up to Willie and the owners.”

Townend was bouncing back after the disappointment of Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup, where he had to settle for third in his bid to join an elite club as a three-timer winner of the blue riband.

He added: “He wore his heart on his sleeve again. We missed a couple of fences this year, which wasn’t ideal, but he’s gone down fighting.”

Monkfish stays unbeaten over fences in Brown Advisory

Monkfish maintained his unbeaten record over fences with a comprehensive success in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

A narrow winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival, the Willie Mullins-trained chestnut was the 1-4 favourite to strike gold in the Cotswolds for a second time, having been faultless in three previous chase starts.

It was not entirely plain sailing for odds-on backers, with The Big Breakaway more than matching Monkfish in the jumping department for much of the three-mile contest, before Paul Townend’s mount displayed his superior class to move clear before the home turn.

The presence of the riderless Eklat De Rire, who unseated Rachael Blackmore earlier in the race, will have had Monkfish’s supporters sweating in the home straight, as would a mistake at the final fence.

But it ultimately made no difference to the result, with the giant seven-year-old galloping up the hill to score by six and a half lengths from Fiddlerontheroof.

Mullins said: “I think that is the most nerve-wracking race I’ve ever watched – 1-4 in a three-mile novice chase around Cheltenham is not good for the ticker, especially with the way he jumped the last.

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“Chatting to Paul he said he was idling on the first circuit, watching the jeep on the inside, the men at the fences – anything bar concentrating on his jumping. When he started racing alongside the other one (The Big Breakaway) things started getting better.

“Then he had to put up with the loose horse, but at least it stayed straight. It was very nerve-wracking for me.

“It’s testament to him that having jumped the last the way he did he was still able to quicken away from the others, I thought that was impressive once I’d got over my fright.”

There was nearly drama at the last
There was nearly drama at the last (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He added: “The first time he ran for me I thought he was a slow, staying hurdler so I’m amazed at the improvement he’s shown. He’s learning, he was very green coming from the point-to-point field. His performance here last year was fantastic and he’s franked it today.

“I imagine the Gold Cup will be his aim. I think he just lacked concentration today due to lack of runners – Paul said he must have thought he was only schooling today, not racing.

“In a race like the Gold Cup there should be no worries about that.”

Colin Tizzard was understandably proud of the effort of his pair.

He said: “It was a lovely race to watch and they’ve just run into a very good horse, haven’t they?

“Fiddlerontheroof ran the race of his life and The Big Breakaway is only six, so he’s a year younger than the first two, which is quite a difference I think.

“We don’t tend to turn them out yet, so if they are in form and fit and well we’ll be doing Aintree then taking a team to Punchestown as well. We’ve had enough lean days this season haven’t we?”

he’s given a Gold Cup horse a run for ithe’s given a Gold Cup horse a run for it

Robbie Power was aboard Fiddlerontheroof and said: “That was a fabulous run. He’s been running really well all season and not getting any credit for it. He’s bumped into some good horses and probably got beaten on days when he wasn’t 100 per cent right, but he was right today and he’s given a Gold Cup horse a run for it.

“He strikes me as though Aintree for the Grade One race will suit and then maybe something like the Ladbrokes Trophy would be ideal for him next season. Monkfish could be a Gold Cup horse and I didn’t think he was at his best today as he didn’t jump as he can.”

Appreciate It rules Supreme for Mullins and Townend

Appreciate It lived up to his pre-race billing as he powered to victory in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The 8-11 favourite, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Paul Townend, outclassed his seven rivals with a dominant display in the Festival curtain-raiser.

It was the start the Irish hoped for with Appreciate It coming home 24 lengths clear of the opposition to give Mullins a seventh success in the race.

As expected, For Pleasure set the pace, but Appreciate It was always nicely in his slipstream. Townend made his move at the third-last, with the seven-year-old taking over from the penultimate obstacle.

From then on, Appreciate It pulled easily clear. His stablemate Blue Lord was his nearest pursuer when he came down at the last. That left Henry de Bromhead’s Ballyadam to claim second place, having made a mistake when hitting the second-last flight.

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For Pleasure stuck to his task admirably to claim third place, two and a quarter lengths further away.

Mullins said: “It’s a great start to the meeting. I couldn’t believe that he won so easy.

“Things were looking a bit tough rounding the last bend in Leopardstown (last month) and we were wondering whether he’d left his best performance of the year there (at Christmas), so we just brought home and freshened him up and it seems to have worked.

“The way he finished the race today he looks as good as any of our previous winners of the race – it was a Vautour-like performance.”

On future plans, he added: “At the start of the season I had him down as a Ballymore horse or an Albert Bartlett horse if that failed, so here I am after winning three Grade Ones over two miles with him – I’m probably the last person to ask where we’ll be going next season!

“I thought he could possibly be an Arkle horse. I never envisaged him as a Champion Hurdle horse and I think we’ll just leave that (decision) until after we go to Punchestown.

“I’ve always had chasing in mind for him, but then I always had chasing in mind for Faugheen, so we’re back to the same argument.

“I’ll have a word with Michael Masterson (owner) and the team at home.”

Runners in the Supreme make their way down the home straight towards the empty grandstands
Runners in the Supreme make their way down the home straight towards the empty grandstands (Michael Steele/PA)

Townend said: “He was very impressive there. Conditions came in his favour and it was a huge performance.

“He’s a simple horse to ride and it’s ideal to have a horse like that to ride in the first race of the week.

“We knew from the bumper here last year that he was very good. He’d been beating the Irish novices at home, so I was quietly confident.

“We know he stays and I suppose the way he jumps makes him look like a quicker horse than he is.”

Mullins’ Leopardstown treble signals fine form for Festival

Willie Mullins served notice his string is firing on all cylinders for next week’s Cheltenham Festival by saddling a treble on the final day of Leopardstown’s jumps season.

Dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo will lead an extremely powerful Cheltenham squad for the most successful trainer in Festival history – with the likes of Appreciate It, Chacun Pour Soi and Monkfish all carrying high expectations to the Cotswolds.

Mullins teamed up with champion jockey Paul Townend to win both divisions of the TRI Equestrian Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown, with Grand Bornand (11-10) and Elite Charboniere (4-6) justifying favouritism in the colours of Rich and Susannah Ricci.

“Elite Charboniere got the job done and he jumped the last like he would prefer a fence,” said Mullins.

“I think good ground is hugely beneficial to him, so he’ll keep going from now on.

“It’s the same with Grand Bornand, and we’ll probably target all the festivals with both of them.”

The Closutton handler’s hat-trick was completed by Eurotiep, who landed cramped odds of 1-6 under amateur rider Aubrey McMahon in the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Novice Hurdle.

Mullins added: “That’s great for Aubrey and the Down The Hatch Syndicate – that’s Aubrey’s third win on him, and they make a good team.

“Luke McMahon (rider’s father) put together the syndicate to buy this horse. He’ll go for the final of this race now at Punchestown. If there is something nice in between we might go for that, but the final is the big goal.

“He gallops and jumps – and he might be Aubrey’s first winner over fences next season.”

Gordon Elliott was narrowly denied a winner with his final runner before serving his suspension in the concluding TRI Equestrian Superstore & Cafe Flat Race.

Elliott, who will not send out any runners under his name for a minimum of six months because of the image of him sitting on a dead horse which emerged on social media, was represented by the Jamie Codd-ridden Top Bandit in the finale.

However, the 5-2 joint-favourite was ultimately unable to get the better of a thrilling duel with Oliver McKiernan’s 5-1 shot Meet And Greet – losing out by a nose.

McKiernan was completing a double following the earlier success of Fox Fearless (28-1) in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.

Bachasson bags Red Mills Chase glory at Gowran

Bachasson made it four from four for the season with victory in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park.

The Willie Mullins-trained grey has mixed disciplines to great effect this season – previously landing the Clonmel Oil Chase, a conditions hurdle at Punchestown and the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas.

Faced with just three rivals on his return to the larger obstacles for a rescheduled running of this Grade Two contest, Paul Townend’s mount tracked Spyglass Hill for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey before taking over the lead before the home turn.

Castlegrace Paddy briefly looked a threat, but 4-11 favourite Bachasson sauntered clear in effortless fashion and passed the post with 16 lengths in hand.

Mullins said: “He’s just an extraordinary horse. He’s a real advertisement for what we would call a handy horse. It just shows that they come in all shapes and sizes. He was bought as a bumper/hurdle horse, but he has such scope and is so brave.

“Paul said he was absolutely loving it today when he got upsides Rachael (Blackmore, on Spyglass Hill) and he just took off. He’s in love with the game, even though he’s done a lot of racing.

“I’d imagine we’ll look for a similar type of contest, maybe the Webster Cup at Navan. He can go back over hurdles if conditions are right.

“He’s a great horse for the O’Connells (owners) to have on the back of Un De Sceaux.”

Rain bounces back to winning form for Mullins team

Echoes In Rain got back on the winning trail with a thoroughly impressive display in the Paddy Power Betting Shop Novice Hurdle at Naas.

The Willie Mullins-trained mare bolted up over the course and distance in December, before finishing fourth in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on her latest appearance.

The daughter of Authorized was the 11-8 favourite to strike Grade Two gold at the second attempt – and after tracking the pacesetting Razzle Dazzle Love for much of the two-mile journey, she travelled powerfully into the lead early in the home straight.

Belfast Banter came from further back to try to close the gap, but Echoes In Rain never looked in serious danger of being caught in the hands of Paul Townend and could easily have won by further than the official margin of eight lengths.

Mullins said: “She’s learning and at least she got a full round of jumping in there, not like the last day here, when it was nearly a Flat race (hurdles not jumped in the straight due to the low lying sun).

“She’s learning how to settle and there was a good pace, which helped her.”

Considering future targets, the champion trainer added: “There is a race here in a fortnight that might be a little too soon for her and there is also a novice in Fairyhouse at Easter.

“She had a tough enough race there because she is tough on herself. Maybe the experience over hurdles is teaching her to race and it might do her no harm experience-wise for the future.

“She has a lovely turn of foot and if we could teach her to settle better and use that, she could make a very smart two-miler.

“A faster pace over better ground would help her. She’s going the right way.”

Mullins expresses Festival doubts for Emery despite Naas success

Cilaos Emery is not certain to be part of Willie Mullins’ formidable squad for the Cheltenham Festival despite producing a dominant display in the first race at Naas on Sunday.

Fourth in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last March, Cilaos Emery had run just once since – filling the runner-up spot behind stablemate Bachasson in November’s Clonmel Oil Chase.

With champion jockey Paul Townend in the saddle, the nine-year-old was the 1-2 favourite to make a successful return in the Grade Three WhatOddsPaddy? Chase and could hardly have been more impressive.

Cilaos Emery set a sound pace from flag-fall, with Daly Tiger the only one of his three rivals able to keep tabs on him.

There was little to choose between the pair leaving the back straight, but the market leader readily asserted from the home turn and passed the post with 11 lengths in hand.

“The break did him no harm and he’s come back good and strong,” said Mullins.

“He jumped great and I was really pleased with that.

“We’ll try to find another similar type of race for him.”

Cilaos Emery after winning at Naas
Cilaos Emery after winning at Naas (Alan Magee/PA)

Cilaos Emery is entered in both the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, but Mullins added: “I don’t know if he’ll travel.

“There might be nice prizes on the home front. It’s good to get him back to winning ways.

“We did a lot of work on his jumping and I’m very pleased it has paid off.”

Monkfish far too good for Flogas rivals

Monkfish put up arguably the most impressive performance of his career to date in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

Last season’s Albert Barlett winner is now three out of three over fences and Paul Nolan must be cursing his luck with Latest Exhibition, who chased him home once again.

There was little between the pair over hurdles at Cheltenham and Latest Exhibition gave Monkfish plenty to think about when they met at Christmas.

However, Willie Mullins’ Monkfish extended his superiority over a clearly very good rival to 11 lengths this time.

Paul Townend was allowed to dictate his own pace at the head of affairs and as has been the case in his chasing career to date, Monkfish’s jumping, especially for a novice, was immaculate.

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Latest Exhibition briefly threatened after clearing the second last, but Townend only had to shake the reins and 1-2 favourite Monkfish shot clear.

The winner is now 11-10 from 7-4 with Betfair for the Festival Novices’ Chase, formerly known as the RSA, at Cheltenham.

“The horses are just in fantastic form. What can you say after a performance like that? Paul thought he should be in the next race (Irish Gold Cup),” said Mullins.

“Today I was more impressed than any day. It looks like he might be getting better with each run, it was the ease with which he did it.

“Everything is just so effortless. He just goes down, jumps, gallops. He seems to always be in the right position, he has huge scope – no matter where he is he gets his shoulders off the ground and bends his back.

“Paul never looked worried, he looked like he was a lead horse for the others, turning for home.

“It’s as easy watching him as any horse, he just does everything so easily.

Monkfish clears the last in fine style
Monkfish clears the last in fine style (Niall Carson/PA)

“I presume that (Festival Novices’ Chase) is next, but we’ll enjoy today.”

Townend said: “All I had to do was sit there and steer him to be honest. He locked eyes on every fence and took them on, the loose horse took me on and set him alight a little bit, but I wasn’t worried because he is just a very good horse.

“The feel he gives me, he isn’t a plodder and has a little bit of class.”

Appreciate It secures Grade One double at Leopardstown

Appreciate It bagged a second Grade One from just three runs over timber in the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Willie Mullins’ inmate, who was second in the Champion Bumper last March, was backed as if defeat was out of the question and sent off the 1-3 favourite.

Paul Townend decided to keep things simple on the seven-year-old, having him on the pace throughout on the inside.

With half a mile to run, the field was still tightly packed, but when Townend wound things up, only Ballyadam emerged as a serious threat.

Appreciate It was clear before pinging the last flight
Appreciate It was clear before pinging the last flight (Niall Carson/PA)

While Gordon Elliott’s charge was put well in his place when fourth at Christmas, he made much more of a fight of it this time but having closed to within a length, Appreciate It still had more to give and went three and a quarter lengths clear. Blue Lord, a stablemate of the winner, was third.

Betfair trimmed the winner into 13-8 from 9-4 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle next month.

Mullins said: “He was very good when Paul set him alight. I thought he put it to bed straight away after the second last.

“There looked to be a gang of horses queuing up to take him on, but when he changed gear there was just one horse left, Ballyadam, and Ballyadam got tired going to the last and fluffed it. He has a good engine.

“He seems to tick every box, I’d like him to jump better than he did today. I thought he was a little careless down the back – I think he has a better jump in him.”

Townend said: “He wasn’t as breathtaking as he was at Christmas, but he ground it out, which is the sign of a good horse.

“He didn’t jump with as much fluency and was never in control of the race like I thought I could have been, but the good ones get it done and thankfully he has done it.”

Energumene unstoppable from the front in Irish Arkle

Energumene set up a mouthwatering clash with Shishkin at Cheltenham next month with a brilliant front-running display in the Patrick Ward & Company Solicitors Irish Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

The seven-year-old had looked a natural in winning his first two starts over fences – and with trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Paul Townend having already landed the first two Grade Ones of the afternoon, Energumene was the 5-6 favourite to follow suit.

Sent straight to the lead, the Tony Bloom-owned gelding fenced fluently throughout the two-mile-one-furlong contest to keep the pressure on his chasing rivals, with the fall of nearest pursuer Captain Guinness at the second-last leaving the market leader with a clear advantage.

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His stable companions Franco De Port and Blackbow attempted to bridge the gap from the home turn, but Energumene was in a class of his own as he passed the post with 10 lengths in hand.

Franco De Port pipped Blackbow to the runner-up spot to make it a Mullins one-two-three.

Coral make Energumene a 5-2 chance for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham, with Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin remaining at the head of the market at 8-11.

Mullins said: “I thought that was a helluva performance from a novice. He jumped and galloped, and gave no quarter to any horse.

“You couldn’t ask for anything more. He probably stood a little far back off the last, and Paul said he stood a bit far off another fence, but other than that it was as good as you’d get from a horse having his third run over fences.

Energumene after his demolition job in the Irish Arkle
Energumene after his demolition job in the Irish Arkle (Niall Carson/PA)

“He went a good even gallop in front, and the time (quicker than Chacun Pour Soi in preceding race) tells you how good a performance it was.

“Obviously when you get that type of performance you’re delighted, because you don’t ever expect that.

“He’s every inch a chaser to look at. If you were going to draw a picture of a chaser he’s the one you’d draw.”

When asked if he is looking forward to a clash with Shishkin, Mullins added: “I don’t know, I’d rather it was without Shishkin!

“It looks like it’s going to be a race to look forward to from both sides. Shishkin is a helluva horse. It’s great that we have one from each side of the Irish sea going there, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Chacun Pour Soi cruises to Dublin Chase repeat

Chacun Pour Soi produced another imperious display to dominate his rivals in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase at Leopardstown.

The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old was the 2-5 favourite to successfully defend his crown in the two-mile-one-furlong contest, having proved too strong for stablemate Min – winner of the race in 2018 and 2019 – in last year’s renewal.

Min was once again in opposition, but two bad mistakes racing down the back straight led to him being pulled up by the trainer’s son Patrick, leaving Chacun Pour Soi travelling strongly in behind Notebook and Fakir D’oudairies.

Odds-on backers would have been happy as Paul Townend’s mount moved powerfully into the home straight, before taking command on the run to the final fence.

A huge leap sealed matters, and it was impossible to be anything but impressed by the way he pulled right away on the run-in to beat Fakir D’oudairies by eight lengths.

Coral cut Chacun Pour Soi to 4-6 from 11-10 to provide Mullins with a first victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, after being forced to miss the race last year following a minor setback on the morning of the race.

“It was a very good performance. I was a little bit worried going to the third-last if Paul had anything left in the tank, as he seemed to be niggling,” said Mullins.

“After the second-last I thought he wasn’t putting the race to bed or anything. Paul felt that he was in command at all stages.

Paul Townend and Willie Mullins celebrate with Chacun Pour Soi
Paul Townend and Willie Mullins celebrate with Chacun Pour Soi (Niall Carson/PA)

“He just wanted to get down to the last, jump it, and then go. The end result was very good.

“I was worried over the third- and second-last, but Paul said he was just asleep underneath him.

“They didn’t hang around. Min set off to make the pace and then Notebook joined him. Notebook was probably just slicker in the air and Min paid the penalty for that later on.”

He added: “Min seems to be fine, Patrick got off and thought he was fine. It didn’t work out for him today, but the other guy was awesome.”

Gaillard Du Mesnil makes no mistake

Gaillard Du Mesnil got favourite-backers off to a flying start at this year’s Dublin Racing Festival with a clear-cut victory in the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors ’50k Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff’ Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.

An impressive winner at the track over the Christmas period, the Willie Mullins-trained grey was the 13-8 market leader to successfully step up in distance and class for this two-mile-six-furlong Grade One contest.

Having travelled strongly in midfield for much of the race under Paul Townend, Gaillard Du Mesnil moved into the slipstream of his front-running stablemate Stattler early in the home straight, before taking over on the approach to the final flight.

The five-year-old never looked in danger of being caught from that point – galloping all the way to the line to score by five lengths, with Gentlemansgame pipping Stattler to the runner-up spot.

Betfair cut the winner to 7-2 from 13-2 for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

“That was a nice start,” said Mullins.

“He was very keen and I thought he was going to pay the penalty, but it shows how big an engine he has that he was able to still find more after it looking like Danny (Mullins, on Stattler) had stole the race.

Gaillard Du Mesnil was a decisive winner
Gaillard Du Mesnil was a decisive winner (Niall Carson/PA)

“It was a nice victory in the end and he must be a fair sort to come from that far back in that type of contest.

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“The Ballymore would look the race for him at this point. It was a tremendous staying performance in what looked a real quality field.”

Of Stattler, he added: “He was was very good and Danny gave him a well-judged ride from the front.

“That puts him in line for the Albert Bartlett and hopefully Ronnie (Bartlett, owner) can win some of his own money back!”

Kilcruit oozed class in the bumper at Leopardstown
Kilcruit oozed class in the bumper at Leopardstown (Niall Carson/PA)

Gaillard Du Mesnil initiated a four-timer on the card for Mullins, with Chacun Pour Soi and Energumene also claiming Grade One honours before Kilcruit barely came off the bridle in winning the Goffs Future Stars I.N.H. Flat Race.

One of three runners in the Grade Two contest for the champion trainer, Kilcruit was clear first string as the 11-10 favourite following an impressive display at Navan in December.

Ridden confidently throughout, the trainer’s son Patrick Mullins remained motionless as his mount cruised up alongside the pacesetters early in the home straight before pulling 12 lengths clear – confirming himself a major contender for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.

Mullins senior said: “I thought Patrick had picked the wrong one – how wrong was I? I thought Ramillies (finished fifth) put up a very good performance here at Christmas, but Patrick has huge confidence in this horse – and now I can see why.

“My mother bred him, Patrick’s granny. He was particularly pleased to be riding a winner for her.

“It was a superb performance in what was a very good race. I thought he’d be a nice horse, but I didn’t think he had that sort of capability – that was unreal what he produced there.”

Reflecting on the day as a whole, he said: “It’s been fantasy racing. Energumene, Chacun Pour Soi, Gaillard Du Mesnil – any trainer would like to have any of them in his lifetime, I think.

“It’s been a superb day’s racing, and I was hoping we might get a winner or two. Things have worked out really well.”

A Wave Of The Sea led home a one-two for trainer Joseph O’Brien and owner JP McManus in the Matheson Handicap Chase.

Winner of the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle at this meeting last year, 12-1 shot A Wave Of The Sea knuckled down for 5lb claimer Simon Torrens to see off stablemate Top Moon (50-1) by a neck, with 7-2 favourite The Shunter best of the rest in third.

A Wave Of The Sea (blue cap) was one of two winners for owner JP McManus
A Wave Of The Sea (blue cap) was one of two winners for owner JP McManus (Niall Carson/PA)

O’Brien said: “It’s nice to get a winner, and I’m delighted to win a big one for JP.

“He’s struggled a little bit in Graded company (over fences), and then when you go into handicaps it’s a different ball game.

“I thought he jumped very well today – probably as good as he’s jumped. That was probably the difference.

“He could easily go to Cheltenham. We’ll see how he comes out of it and see what the handicapper does.”

McManus and Torrens also combined to win the other lucrative handicap on the card, with the Pat Fahy-trained Drop The Anchor (8-1) lunging late to deny Champagne Gold in the 125,000 euro Ladbrokes Hurdle.

Fahy said: “I’m delighted. I was looking at a full parade ring beforehand thinking to myself ‘imagine being the best horse in this with all the big names’, but I won it.

“I thought early in the race he wasn’t winging them all, and he had to be tough. He needs a test at the finish of a race.

“He’s not big but he’s really tough. It took him a while to win, but he needed time to strengthen up.”