Willie Mullins' inconsistent Twinlight proved that when things fall in his favour he is a very good horse as he won the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown today.
Pulled up last time out, he was ridden more patiently by Paul Townend on the second day of the big race meeting and he jumped alongside the game Hidden Cyclone at the last before winning the Grade One race by four and three-quarter lengths, with Nicky Richards’ Simply Ned third.
“At Cork I had said to Paul ’I want you to go down the inner and just wing your fences’ and two or three other horses kept up to him,” said Mullins.
“I said to Paul today, to do the same, and he said he wanted to change the plan.
“Hidden Cyclone ran a fantastic race – I thought he had us beaten going to the last – but our fella just met it right and I’m delighted for Paul to get a Grade One winner, against the head, as we say.”
There was a big turn up in the Paddy Power Maiden Hurdle as Champion Bumper winner Silver Concorde was made to look ordinary by Blair Perrone.
Tony Martin’s five-year-old was beaten a long way on his hurdling debut at Cork but looked a different proposition in the hands of Denis O’Regan.
The 10-1 chance came home two unextended lengths clear of the 1-3 favourite.
Martin said: “Things just didn’t go right for him the first day at Punchestown (in a bumper) when he was too free, and he needed the run badly at Cork the last day.
“He’s always showed us that he’s a good horse at home. The plan was to stalk the favourite and hopefully take him on as late as possible and it worked out perfect.”
O’Regan’s decision to make the journey back to Ireland was fully vindicated when he produced Living Next Door (20-1) with a typically patient ride to win the valuable Paddy Power Chase.
Top weight Foxrock made a bold bid and had everything else in trouble approaching the final fence, but O’Regan had stalked him into the straight and won by a length and a quarter..
“These are the sort of races you like winning. You target them, and it’s wonderful that it’s worked out,” said Martin.
“Every fence he made ground and (Denis) O’Regan gave him the ride of the year as far as I’m concerned.”
O’Regan said: “Finishing with the Bloomfields and John Ferguson operation at the end of last season meant it’s been a difficult enough start, so I’ve had to keep grafting away.
“I’ve been coming to Ireland a lot and I’ve been lucky enough to get on a few nice horses for Tony Martin and others and it’s keeping me going and a winner like this (Living Next Door) will help.”
Rising star Johnny Burke recorded a notable first at Leopardstown when Sizing John won an eventful renewal of the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle.
A few eyebrows might have been raised when powerful owners Alan and Ann Potts hired him as the teenager as their retained jockey for this season, but he has let no one down and was in the right place to take advantage of a mishap by the favourite, Nichols Canyon.
When that Willie Mullins odds-on favourite fell and stablemate McKinley pulled up soon after, Burke dictated matters from the front on Sizing John, who completed a fantastic 10 minutes for trainer Henry de Bromhead, who also won with Special Tiara at Kempton.
The silver lining for Mullins is that his Douvan beat the winner easily when they met earlier in the season.
“There were a few incidents but it’s great to win and a nice bonus. Our lad nearly ran out went the loose horse came by him. I’m delighted for Johnny as it’s his first Grade One win,” said De Bromhead.
“I was disappointed with him at Gowran, but they told me Douvan is very highly regarded. I always thought he wanted better ground and the plan was to back off him after this and look to the spring.”
Burke said: “That’s my first Grade One. I’ve had two Grade Two winners, but that’s my first Grade One.
“He did it well. I’ve always held him in high regard, ever since the first day I saw him. I remember riding against him in a bumper in Limerick one day and he always stuck in my mind since that day. He was very impressive in Naas and, to be fair, he bumped into a well above-average horse in Gowran (Douvan) and he’s proved himself today at the highest level.
“I wasn’t aware of what was going on behind but when I saw the loose horse come by me as we turned into the back straight, I knew that was Ruby’s (Walsh, Nichols Canyon) then, so that was our main danger gone.”
Des McDonogh unleashed a second smart debutant in the space of two days as Theophilus (4-1) made a smooth introduction to the winter game in the Paddy Power “Number 1 For Live Streaming” 3-Y-O Hurdle after Fiscal Focus had done the business.
McDonogh, trainer of the great hurdler Monksfield, said: “At the moment the two of them (including Fiscal Focus) will be aimed at the Triumph.
“Fiscal Focus is different gravy. I must say I am in awe of him. I may need a double horse box now for Cheltenham!”