Timely boost as Mullins hits treble top

WILLIE Mullins was handed a timely boost with the victory of Ballytrim in the Powers Ulster Grand National EBF Handicap Chase, part of a treble at Downpatrick yesterday.

Just hours after the County Carlow man had to rule his star novice hurdler Hurricane Fly out of the showpiece Cheltenham Festival meeting, Mullins once again advertised his string are in rude health with a treble.

Barker was also on the scoresheet along with Hammersmith in the bumper.

The three winners mean he has saddled 16 in the last 14 days.

Racing in the colours made famous by Florida Pearl and Missed That, Ballytrim looked like matching his illustrious stable companions earlier in his career but it has not gone to plan for him.

However, ridden with great confidence by Paul Townend, the eight-year-old easily accounted for Rossebeigh and won by seven lengths.

Mullins said: “That is the first time I have won this race. We have possibly been dropping him out too much in his races and the better ground was a big help.

“The Irish National is a possibility or he may go to Punchestown.”

Barker was having his first start for the yard in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase but was sent off the even money favourite to oblige.

He had the class to win a Pierse Hurdle in his younger days and Ruby Walsh never had an anxious moment as he brought him home 17 lengths clear of The Fonze.

“I’m delighted with the way he jumped, he’d lost his way a bit but seems to be back to himself,” said Mullins.

“I’ve only had him about eight weeks or so. We will probably go to Fairyhouse and Punchestown with him, if we can find a winners of one race in between that would be great. It looks as though he might get further than two miles.”

Hammersmith (11-10 favourite) made nearly every yard of the running under Mullins’ son Patrick, ironically in the colours of Hurricane Fly’s owner, George Creighton.

A course and distance winner in December, Chief Oscar followed-up in the Morning Star Belfast Hunters Chase and, in doing so, booked his ticket to Cheltenham for the Christies Foxhunters.

Ridden by ‘J D’ Moore, 13/8 favourite Chief Oscar jumped into the lead three fences from home and looked set for a convincing win. But, on the run-in, Moore had to get very serious with the eight-year-old as market rival Bally Wall closed under strong driving from Derek O’Connor.

The favourite hung on grimly to triumph by a short-head, prompting his trainer Brian Hamilton to explain: “He needed to win today to qualify for the ‘Foxhunters’. We’ll go for it, more with hope than expectation.”

Both Moore and O’Connor were severely cautioned by the Stewards regarding their whip use.

It was a day to remember for Cork-born Donal Macauley, who made the perfect start to his professional career on board Fairwood Bob in the opening Martinstown Opportunity Maiden, forging clear of front-running Oh So Humbel on the run-in to score by six lengths.

Macauley,(29), who rode fifteen winners as an amateur, was persuaded to join the paid ranks by his boss Philip Rothwell, who trains Fairwood Bob.

Itsallaracket, winner of a bumper on the track on her debut, made a successful return to this unique track, recording a smooth win in the Downpatrick Mares Novice Hurdle.

Following-up a maiden win at Clonmel last week, Itsallaracket was confidently handled by Eoin McCarthy (recording his 14th career success) before challenging Hello Kitty at the final and soon assuming control.

Itsallaracket is trained on the Curragh by Kerryman Seamus Lynch, who commented: “That’s three wins from four runs. She came home ‘wrong’ from Folkestone but took her race at Clonmel well and did her job nicely today. Eoin has worked for me since he was twelve and is a very under-rated young rider.

“The mare will go for a listed race at Limerck in mid-March (the Shannon Spray Mares Hurdle).”

Claimer Alain Cawley continued his rich vein of form when bringing Road Runner with a well-timed challenge to foil Like The Da in the On-Course Bookmakers Handicap Hurdle., providing trainer Daniel Miley with his first success at Downpatrick.

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