Last season was a frustrating one for many trainers as they struggled to get their horses to the races due to the quick ground.
Willie Mullins has often spoken of that issue but it is now becoming a distant memory for the Closutton trainer as, thanks to weather more conducive to National Hunt racing, he has been able to get his horses to the track, and the results have been fantastic.
Yesterday at Thurles was another great day for the team, recording a short-priced treble, two of which were ridden by stable jockey Paul Townend and one by Daryl Jacob.
To start the day on the right note for Mullins and Townend, Royal Rendezvous made a winning start to his chasing career with a smooth success in the Killinan Beginners’ Chase.
A winner of a point-to-point, two bumpers and one of only two outings over hurdles, he was a well-backed odds-on favourite to get his season off to a flyer and, bar a couple of minor mistakes, there was little for connections to worry about.
Milan Native tried to put it up to him late on but was no match for the winner, who could head to Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting for his next outing.
Mullins said: “He looked a natural jumper, and the couple he met wrong he corrected himself at. Looking at that performance, I’d say I’ll stick to the minimum trip with him.”
Elfile filled the middle leg of Mullins’ treble and completed the double for Townend when leading home the stable’s one-two in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares’ Hurdle.
She was backed from a shade of odds-on to 3-10 before settling at 2-5 at the off.
Townend sent her to the front early and the result was never really in doubt. Kenny Alexander’s mare, who won a bumper in France before winning here, was notching her third success in five runs over hurdles when doing more than enough to hold My Sister Sarah.
“It was a good return for both,” said Mullins. “It was a formbook result, but My Sister Sarah took a bigger blow. They both jumped well, both would prefer further, but the conditions of the race suited them.”
Fan De Blues made a winning debut for Mullins when taking the Holycross Maiden Hurdle.
In front early, he looked in real trouble when Exceeded Brief breezed past before the turn for home but Isaac Souede and Simon Munir’s gelding picked up well for pressure and got back up in the dying strides.
“He did well to do what he did there over a short trip,” said Mullins. “When I saw him in his number-cloth, I thought he looked as big as a bull. I asked Daryl to be positive on him, and I thought he was too positive, but when the horse got his second win in the straight he quickened nicely. He’s a real chaser but he’s only four so we won’t go chasing this season.”
There was an exciting finish to the www.thurlesraces.ie Novice Handicap Chase, though that may not be the view of connections of Western Sea, who was giving a fine display of jumping and resolution until meeting the last all wrong and tipping up.
He was just half a length up at that stage, and his departure left it to Cusp Of Carabelli and Stylish Moment to fight out the finish. The two bumped late on but Cusp Of Carabelli, ridden by Sean Flanagan for David O’Brien, was first past the post and survived a stewards’ enquiry to confirm his second success in just three runs over fences.
Mouse Morris found a real prospect with which to earn him an overdue return to winner’s enclosure, and the performance of French Dynamite suggested he could enjoy plenty more success as the season prevails.
Robbie Power made virtually every yard of the running aboard the easy-to-back winner of the Christmas Party Race Day Saturday December 21 Maiden Hurdle.
After watching his horse jump beautifully most of the way and pick up well to fend off all comers, headed by Trevena, the winning trainer described him as “my type of horse”.
“He couldn’t have done it any easier,” he added. “He’s a big raw baby, and I’ll be in no rush with him.”
Wolfofallstreets trounced his rivals in the Templemore Handicap Hurdle.
As the race unfolded, the Philip Rothwell-trained and James O’Sullivan-ridden five-year-old was clearly cantering all over his rivals, and when asked to stretch on after the last he sprinted clear of runner-up Ard Na Carraig.
Mossy White appreciated the return to the smaller obstacles when taking the finale, the Horse & Jockey Handicap Hurdle. Frere Fontaine looked to have his measure jumping the last, but the eventual winner responded generously to the call of his rider and trainer, Denis Hogan, to get back up in the last stride.