Threemore for Walsh and Mullins

RUBY WALSH and Willie Mullins continued in irresistible form when sharing a treble at Navan yesterday, scoring with odds-on shots Lilywhitedancer and Barker and marker-drifter Palace Merano, which needed all of Walsh’s strength to land the Irish Stallion Farms Novice Hurdle.

Lilywhitedancer, narrowly denied in a Fairyhouse handicap last time, was sent off a red-hot 30/100 favourite for the opening division of the Kilberry Maiden Hurdle and, under an ultra-confident ride, came through to beat Porticcio comfortably.

Mullins commented: “He was bit unlucky at Fairyhouse, but settled much better today. He hated the ground, because it’s so tacky. And we’ll look for a suitable ‘novice’ for him, or go back handicapping.”

Palace Merano’s hard-earned win in the two miles, seven furlong novice event was probably the highlight of the Mullins/Walsh haul, the six-year-old French-bred getting the better of a duel with Across The Bay by a neck, after making a potentially costly mistake at the last.

The principals pulled nine lengths clear of previous dual-winner and longtime leader Lurgan, giving the form a solid look. And the winning trainer explained: “The trip and the hill brought out the best in him. He appeared to be struggling going to the second last, bit found plenty when Ruby got stuck into him, even after the mistake. Three miles won’t be a problem. And Fairyhouse looks perfectly-timed for him.”

Barker started 4/9 to complete the Mullins/Walsh treble in the Kells Novice Chase and, jumping to his right and kept to the outside throughout, had to dig deep on the run-in before seeing off the flattering Jak Dream by two and a half lengths.

The former Pierse Hurdle winner was following-up a recent win at Downpatrick and is now ‘two for two’ since joining the Mullins team. He’s also bound for Fairyhouse at Easter.

Although overshadowed by Ruby’s achievements, just as Barry Geraghty was at Cheltenham, despite three superb wins, Paddy Flood also enjoyed a successful day, recording a fine double, highlighted by winning the featured Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Novice Handicap Chase on board the Michael Cullen-trained mare Bella Mana Mou.

Relishing the testing ground conditions, the seven-year-old Snurge mare made every yard of the running, jumped superbly and had her nearest rivals in trouble approaching the second last fence before slamming Will Jamie Run by seventeen lengths.

A delighted Michael Cullen said: “She loves soft ground, preferably when it’s almost unraceable. She really enjoyed herself out there. And Paddy gave her a smashing, positive ride, which is just what she needs.”

Cullen added: “She’ll be given an entry in the Irish Grand National and, if the ground stays soft, we’ll go there. If it doesn’t, we’ll make other plans. But you won’t see her when the ground dries out.”

Flood completed his double in the Irish Day At Navan Racecourse Beginners Chase, when Dara Whyte held off the persistent late challenge of Yes Ben to give Claire O'Connell her first success since taking over the trainer’s licence from her father Al.

Kyle’s Turn landed a tidy touch (25/1 to 10/1) in the second division of the Kilberry Maiden Hurdle, being left in front when Oklahoma Jack crashed two from home and then holding Glenview Leader and Havagoodsip.

The winner is trained by Eyssen Ross, daughter of legendary point-to-point rider and trainer Willie Rooney and sister of Irish Grand National winning rider Anne Ferris.

Charles Byrnes, who made his Cheltenham Festival breakthrough with Weapon’s Amnesty last Thursday, was at Limerick and missed seeing Bit Of A Devil, ridden by Phlip Enright, bolt up in the Slane Handicap Hurdle.

Confidently handled, the Pistolet Bleu gelding, backed from 5/1 to 7/2 pounced on the inside going to the last before sprinting clear up the hill to beat the long-absent, Aintree-bound Offshore Account by seven lengths, with former Grand National winner Silver Birch back in ninth place.

Noel Meade recorded his first bumper win since Assigh Pearl scored at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve when Midtown Boy landed the Discover Meath Pro-Am Flat Race.

Ridden by Nina Carberry, Midtown Boy, in the colours of the Five G’s Syndicate, got the better of a tussle with Willie Mullins’ odds-on newcomer Buoy George before Inside Shadow came through to fill the runner-up berth.

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