Mullins, who attended a schooling session in Thurles yesterday and arrived 10 minutes after the race, missed seeing the six-year-old Bob Back gelding stretch clear in the final furlong to slam Mountain Time by 13 lengths.
Described by his trainer as a “relentless galloper” , the Noel O’Callaghan-owned 4/7 winner will not be part of Mullins’ team for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham. Instead, he’s likely to be launched on a hurdling career before the end of the season.
Earlier, Ruby Walsh was seen at his best when partnering the Martin Lynch-trained Oscar Time to win the 20% On Line Discount Novice Chase at the expense of course specialist Good Fella, from which he was receiving 6lb. Placed in each of his four previous outings over fences, Oscar Time had not looked a straight-forward ride in the past. But, having tracked the leaders, the champion brought the 5/4 favourite from fourth place at the second last to launch a determined challenge and edge ahead before the final obstacle.
Oscar Time produced a spectacular leap and, despite landing steeply, was in command early on the run-in before idling and being driven out to score by a length and a half.
Winning trainer Martin Lynch said: “He’s been consistent but has come up against a few decent novices. I was anxious to get Ruby to ride him, to tell us where we should be going with him. The plan is to have a crack at the ‘Jewson’ at Cheltenham. And Ruby didn’t put us off the idea. A lot will depend on weight he gets.”
James Nash, for so long associated with Willie Mullins’s team, saddled his first winner since receiving his trainer’s licence at Christmas when Johnee Joblot, uneasy in the market, swooped late under David Casey to foil Cloncrave in the Bobbyjo Bistro Handicap.
“It looked terrible for a long way, but turned out great,” declared a delighted Nash after Johnee Joblot, seventh jumping the second last flight and only fifth at the last, stayed on to snatch the spoils close home.
“That was a fabulous ride by David,” added Nash, who explained, “After what happened with Katie Walsh at Thurles (the horse ran out through the wing of the final flight when set for victory), I’ll give her the chance to ride him a winner in the lady riders’ race at Clonmel.”
It was also a day to remember for 5lb. claimer Adrian Joyce who rode Knocklayde Euro to get the better of Like The Da in the Family Fun At Easter Handicap Hurdle. Joyce has endured a traumatic year, having endured arm and wrist injuries as a result of falls at Aintree last April and Listowel in September, only returning to action less than two weeks ago.
Knocklayde Euro is trained by Tom Taaffe, who explained: “This is my first winner for his owner Colm McHenry, from Ballycastle. The horse is from a good family and is a staying chaser in the making.
“It’s good to win over hurdles with him. And we’ll try to rob another handicap with him before going chasing.”
Paul Stafford, who moved a string of 12 horses into Rockview Stables near Bellewstown less than a month ago, savoured a welcome change of fortune when Will Jamie Run proved a shock 33/1 winner of the Pre Book On Line For The Easter Festival 2009 Handicap Chase. Having his first run for more than 13 months, Will Jamie Run got the better of favourite Inoma James at the final fence before forging clear under Conor Maxwell to beat What’s In Front by eleven lengths.
An even bigger shock came in the Advanced Hospitaility Bookings Maiden Hurdle when 50/1 shot Sam Adams got the better of a three-cornered battle with market-leaders Uimhiraceathair and Lismakeery.
Sam Adams was ridden by Alain Cawley for Paul Nolan, who commented: “He was brought down in his only Point-to-point and needed plenty of time to recover and develop. He needs better ground and should make a smashing chaser.”
Majestic Oak, strong favourite for the opening Happy Valentines Day, responded to Shay Barry’s strong handling to lead briefly on the run-in before surrendering the advantage again to longtime leader Barney’s Honour, ridden for Philip Rothwell by Shane Jackson.
Barry was subsequently banned for two race-days for using his whip with excessive frequency.