Tag Archive for: State Man

State Man takes step up to Grade One level in his stride

Cheltenham Festival scorer State Man successfully graduated to Grade One level with a facile success in the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

A faller on his Irish debut at Leopardstown before landing cramped odds at Limerick, the five-year-old was a heavily-backed favourite for his handicap debut in last month’s County Hurdle and duly obliged.

He was the 11-10 market leader reverting to novice company for the all-conquering Willie Mullins – and after tracking stablemate Kilcruit, the in-form Flame Bearer and Aintree Grade One winner Three Stripe Life into the home straight under a confident Paul Townend, State Man eased to the front on the run to the final flight before pulling seven lengths clear.

Flame Bearer, who had won his previous three races, pipped Three Stripe Life to the runner-up spot.

State Man returns to the Punchestown winner's enclosure
State Man returns to the Punchestown winner’s enclosure (Alan Magee/PA)

Mullins said: “Paul thought he had lots of speed and he showed lots of gears there.

“He’s a horse to look forward to next season. With a performance like that he could be a Champion Hurdle horse – that is probably the route we will go down.

“He’s very novicey and improving all the time. Paul said he was concentrating on keeping him settled and when he picked him up he switched gears. He was only going through the motions after that.

“From the first time we worked him at home he looked decent.

“Joe and Marie (Donnelly) have also purchased his four-year-old brother before Cheltenham.”

Joseph O’Brien’s Scarlet And Dove reversed Cheltenham Festival form with the Mullins-trained Elimay in the Hanlon Concrete Irish EBF Glencarraig Lady Francis Flood Mares’ Chase.

Elimay was the 8-11 favourite to supplement her victory in the Mares’ Chase at Prestbury Park, a race in which Scarlet And Dove was beaten just half a length into third place.

The pair had this Grade Two contest between them a long way from home and it was 3-1 shot Scarlet And Dove who asserted from the home turn to score by 15 lengths under Bryan Cooper.

O’Brien said: “She ran really well in Cheltenham where she missed the last two fences and was still close to Elimay. We weren’t sure we’d beat her today, but thought we’d give her a good run for her money.

“I suppose winning a Grade One would be the main objective next season. She’s a Grade Two winner and a big mare so there is no reason why she can’t be even better next year.”

El Barra and Jack Foley on their way to victory
El Barra and Jack Foley on their way to victory (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mullins had earlier landed the EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase for the fourth year in succession with El Barra (8-1).

Kemboy, Real Steel and Asterion Forlonge had won the last three runnings before going on to bigger and better things, and El Barra added her name on the roll of honour with a six-length verdict under top conditional Jack Foley.

Mullins said: “It was a very polished ride. I think I’m going to use him as my driver. He found his way around all the traffic there and I got held up in traffic and only saw the end of it!

“Jack is a very good young rider. He started off with my brother Tom and we saw how good he was. We invited him to ride some of our horses and he’s champion conditional this year, which is fantastic for him.”

The champion trainer went on to saddle a four-timer on the afternoon thanks to the victories of Billaway and El Fabiolo.

Billaway supplemented his Cheltenham Festival success by landing the Irish Daily Star Champion Hunters Chase under Patrick Mullins.

There was little to choose between the 11-8 shot and even-money favourite Vaucelet approaching the final fence, but a mistake from the latter proved crucial to Billaway’s one-and-a-quarter-length win.

Mullins, saddling his 200th winner of the season in Ireland, said: “When push came to shove twice, at Cheltenham and here today, he pulled it out. He just keeps so much for himself in the locker and Patrick knows that. He’s a brave horse.”

El Fabiolo (right) provided Willie Mullins and Paul Townend with another winner
El Fabiolo (right) provided Willie Mullins and Paul Townend with another winner (Brian Lawless/PA)

Having been beaten a neck by Jonbon in a Grade One at Aintree three weeks ago, El Fabiolo looked the class act in the SalesSense International Novice Hurdle and so it proved, with the Townend-ridden 8-13 favourite accounting for stablemate Ha D’or by four lengths.

Mullins said: “He’s a lovely horse, a real chaser in the making.

“He had a hard race in Aintree so to come back from that and put in a battling finish like he did there was very good.

“I’d imagine we will look forward to going chasing with him. He’s a big tall horse and is only learning how to race.”

Honeysuckle primed to make it sweet sixteen at Punchestown

Honeysuckle is primed to extend her undefeated record as she bids for a second Paddy Power Champion Hurdle title at Punchestown on Friday.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained mare silenced any doubters at the Cheltenham Festival when retaining her Champion Hurdle title and preserving her flawless record to a ratio that now balances at 15 runs and 15 victories.

A two-and-a-quarter-length winner of this race last season, with connections of Constitution Hill opting to keep their powder dry the eight-year-old will face just five rivals this time around as she looks to add a 16th triumph to her CV.

De Bromhead said: “Honeysuckle is in mighty form since Cheltenham. She seems really well. She had to battle to win at Punchestown race last year but they went some pace in it and I think she did what she had to do and was good on the day.

“I think it’s fair comment to say she only does what she needs to in order to win her races and that probably has helped her keep reproducing so consistently throughout her career.

Honeysuckle after her Champion Hurdle defence at Cheltenham
Honeysuckle after her Champion Hurdle defence at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

“It’s a privilege for all of us to be associated with her. She has been incredible since being bought by Peter Molony and Kenny Alexander at Punchestown and we can’t wait to go again.”

British interests are represented by the David Pipe-trained Adagio after his eighth-placed Champion Hurdle performance.

Prior to that the five-year-old has either won or finished second in a string of big races after a juvenile season that culminated in a top-flight victory in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle.

“I think he’ll like conditions, he’s travelled over well, there’s only six runners and quite a lot of prize money on offer so we’ll try and pick up as much as we can,” said Pipe.

“We were going to go to Aintree but he wasn’t quite right so we had to miss that, he hopefully comes here a fresh horse, we’ll put a pair of sheepskin cheekpieces on him as well.

David Pipe's Adagio
David Pipe’s Adagio (David Davies/PA)

“I think he’ll like the track, he’s travelled over well and seems in good form.

“There is still the one runner that is probably unbeatable (Honeysuckle), but we’ll be giving the other four our best shot.”

The JP McManus green and gold silks will be worn by two contenders, with Willie Mullins’ Saint Roi and Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso both in action.

The former finished fourth behind Honeysuckle at Cheltenham and in the Irish Champion Hurdle, whereas Darasso was a winner last time out at a lower grade when taking the Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

“Darasso is a class horse,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to McManus.

Darasso winning the Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Hurdle at Fairyhouse
Darasso winning the Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Hurdle at Fairyhouse (Niall Carson/PA)

“He won well at Fairyhouse and is probably up against it against the mare (Honeysuckle) but he goes there in good form, in winning form, and he won’t mind the ground so we’re hoping for a good run.

“He’s very consistent and is a great horse to have. He’ll rarely let you down.

“Saint Roi ran very well in the Champion Hurdle. He was no match for the mare but if he turns up in the same form and we get place money, we’ll be happy.”

Gordon Elliott’s Teahupoo, a six-time winner who disappointed when finishing last in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, and Mullins’ Echoes In Rain, last seen coming home fifth in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at the same meeting, also take their chance.

On the same card is the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle, another six-runner affair and a race with three entrants from the Mullins yard.

State Man winning the County Hurdle
State Man winning the County Hurdle (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Cheveley Park-owned Deploy The Getaway and former Grade One bumper winner Kilcruit are both engaged, as is County Hurdle hero State Man.

Patrick Mullins, son of trainer Willie, said of the latter: “I’d be very disappointed if he’s not a Grade One winner in the future.

“He showed plenty of speed to win the County Hurdle and it’s just about splitting up the novice hurdlers. There is a fantastic crop there going forward for next year.”

Noel Meade and Elliott have a runner apiece in Highland Charge and Three Stripe Life respectively, with the field then completed by Pat Doyle’s Flame Bearer.

The seven-year-old was won his past three starts, taking a Fairyhouse maiden before landing the BetVictor Novice Hurdle at Naas and then the Tom Quinlan Electrical Novice Hurdle – both Grade Two events.

Flame Bearer winning the Tom Quinlan Electrical Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse
Flame Bearer (red silks) winning the Tom Quinlan Electrical Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse (Niall Carson/PA)

“He has progressed nicely right through the season, from his hurdling debut in Cork last December, when he pulled too hard and blew up because we’d no gallop done with him due to the ground being so quick,” said Doyle.

“He has learned to settle far better now and was a bit unlucky in Naas before winning at Fairyhouse and then the two Grade Twos at Naas and Fairyhouse again.

“He showed a good attitude the last day after getting stuck in a pocket to get up and I couldn’t be happier with him. He’s in great order.

“The point-to-points are our bread and butter but it’s powerful to have a horse with good chance in a Grade One at the Punchestown Festival, especially with (son) Jack riding and we’re looking forward to it.”

State Man proves different class in County Hurdle

State Man continued the dominance of trainer Willie Mullins and piled on the misery for bookmakers at Cheltenham when powering up the hill to land a competitive renewal of the McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle.

The inexperienced five-year-old, who fell in a maiden hurdle at Christmas and gained his first success in a Limerick maiden last month, was sent off the 11-4 favourite under Paul Townend.

His rider was cool under pressure, making stealthy headway down the hill and being produced between the last two flights of hurdles.

Another winner for Paul Townend
Another winner for Paul Townend (Mike Egerton/PA)

There was still work to do to wear down Eclair De Beaufeu, who was always up with the pace, and Colonel Mustard, who approached the last in front.

Yet State Man grabbed the stands rail, as Townend had done in the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle with Vauban, and jumped the last flight on a good stride.

He soon forged a length and a quarter clear and held that advantage to the line, defying the staying-on First Street, and Colonel Mustard who was a length and three-quarters back in third.

The first three, all novices, had West Cork, who also stayed on nicely up the hill, a further two and a quarter-lengths behind in fourth.

“He did well to win and I hope he can brush up his jumping,” said Mullins.

“He’s a horse for the Flat, and while maybe not this season certainly next. Now I am thinking the Grade One at Punchestown as the next step.

“He’s a lovely horse with a lot of ability that will do both jobs.”

Banbridge completed a clean sweep of seven wins for the Ireland on the last day when winning a dramatic race for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

The six-year-old, trained by Joseph O’Brien and ridden by Mark McDonagh, outpointed Cobblers Dream on the run to the line after the first two jumped the last together. Banbridge (12-1) stuck his head down and got the verdict by a length and a half. Hollow Games was third and Freedom To Dream fourth.

There was early drama when the favourite Langar Dan came down at the second flight along with Grand Jury, then at the fourth Decimation fell, bringing down Lucky Max.

O’Brien said: “Mark gave him a great ride. Obviously there was plenty of carnage in behind us through the race and we managed to avoid some of the loose horses down the hill.

“He’s very tough and I’m delighted for Ronnie (Bartlett, owner). He has supported me very well. It’s fantastic to get a winner here. It’s been a long week.”