As so often in the past, the Weatherby’s Champion Bumper was kind to Willie Mullins, and this one was as welcome as any of the previous nine, writes Tommy Lyons
Closutton hadn’t enjoyed the rub of the green right up until the moment Ferny Hollow led stablemate Appreciate It home in yesterday’s finale.
Nobody knows better than Mullins what it takes to win this race and the winner, who carries the colours of Cheveley Park Stud, joins Wither Or Which, Florida Pearl, Alexander Banquet, Joe Cullen, Missed That, Cousin Vinny, Champagne Fever, Briar Hill and Relegate on the Closutton roll of honour.
He was an apparent second-string amongst Mullins’ three runners, with Appreciate It the leading fancy. For much of the race it looked to be going to market expectation as the favourite travelled strongly under Patrick Mullins and hit the front in the straight.
However, Ferny Hollow has always been highly regarded, despite being beaten at odds-on on his first two outings, and the change of tactics and application of a hood, which worked so well at Fairyhouse, worked the oracle once more.
Paul Townend settled the five-year-old out the back and, as on his previous outing, he came through late to mount a challenge. With a powerful run up the hill, he got past his stablemate inside the final furlong to win by two and a half lengths, with Queens Brook the best of Gordon Elliott’s three, taking third place.
“It’s a goal on the stroke of half-time, but it’s nice to get on the board, anyhow,” said Mullins.
“We didn’t get the bounce of the ball yesterday, with one horse taking out another, and it looked like we were a shade unlucky in the Mares’ Hurdle.
Then there was Chacun Por Soi this morning and, though he will be fine in a few days, it was just bad timing. You just keep going and hope it turns around.”
Of the bumper, he added: “I thought Patrick (Appreciate It) had it won just after turning for home, but we could see Paul coming and he won quite easily in the end.
“He ran too free on his first two outings, and putting a hood on him has changed him, as has more drastic tactics in holding him up.
He’s a lovely horse at home but he takes a pull. He gets a bit upset in a race, so I think jumping will suit him a lot better/
“We’ll probably go for the Champion Bumper at Punchestown now and maybe also with the other horse.”
The attendance of 56,943 was down from 59,209 on the same day in 2019.