With three of the five runners in the Grade 2 Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase, trainer Willie Mullins was a long odds-on chance to land the spoils, and duly saddled the first three home, headed by Real Steel.
Stablemate Footpad was favourite to head the Mullins formation, but he raced keenly through the race and never gave his jockey, Daryl Jacob, much chance to get him into a rhythm. Real Steel, on the other hand, warmed to the task nicely for Paul Townend and, as the from two pulled away from the remainder of the field as the race unfolded, he had much more left in the locker and stretched on close home to win with a considerable amount in hand.
“I was disappointed with Footpad, but I think he probably just ran too free,” said Mullins. “The pace was probably a little bit slow and the two horses up front weren’t jumping at the speed you would expect in a race like this. Daryl’s horse did too much in the middle mile of the race and possibly missing the third-last fence (omitted) didn’t give him a chance to get his breath back. It left him exposed a bit, and it fell into Paul’s lap.
“But I was very pleased with how Real Steel jumped in the second half of the race, when he needed to, and how he stayed on. He’s improving. Voix Du Reve improved from his last run too.”
Looking ahead, Mullins added: “I’d imagine we’ll be looking at that (Ryanair Chase) for Real Steel. Paul said he was as straight as a die today - he commented that when he got off the horse. He said he jumped as straight as anything and you could go anywhere with him – there was no bias. We had been concerned before (about his ability to perform on left-handed tracks), but we have to be looking at the Ryanair Chase after that performance.”
Real Steel proved the middle leg of a Mullins treble, the first leg of which came from Monkfish in the W T O’Grady Memorial Irish EBF Novice Hurdle.
With the late fall of Run Wild Fred and the sub-par performance from Festival D’ex, it’s difficult to assess quite how good the form might be, but wide-margin winner Monkfish could not have done much more.
For a horse which has staying chaser written all over it, Mullins’ six-year-old is doing well in this sphere. Run Wild Fred’s departure at the second-last left him to coast home under Paul Townend and he now has the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett as Cheltenham options.
Elimay completed Mullins’ treble by taking the Grade 2 Coolmore NH Sires Capri Irish EBF Mares’ Novice Chase. A decent sort over hurdles, she made a winning debut over fences just last month and stepped up on that to see off Cut The Mustard, but not before being given a scare by that stablemate. She isn’t the biggest of mares but makes up for it with ability and attitude. This was her fourth consecutive victory, having won twice over hurdles last season.
Mullins was long odds-on to make it four on the day when the well touted Power Of Pause made his track debut in the bumper.
The 3-10 favourite moved well to lead into the homestraight but Coolbane Boy also moved easily and, under a very confident ride by Tom Feeney, the Liam Burke-trained five-year-old proved the stronger in the finish. The runner-up remains a smart prospect but there was no semblance of a fluke about the winning performance and Coolbane Boy should have little trouble winning a maiden when sent back over hurdles.
There didn’t appear to be great market confidence behind Arcadian Sunrise prior to the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle but the easy-to-back 5-2 favourite got the job done under a good ride by Denis O’Regan. Trained in Dungarvan by John Queally, the Carlisle bumper winner quickened to challenge new leader Whatsnotoknow going to the last, led over the final obstacle and proved good enough to fend off that rival’s renewed effort.
Probably the most significant take away from the victory of Pakens Rock in the Matty Ryan Memorial Handicap Hurdle was the winning rider, Oakley Brown, who continues to impress. The 7lb claimer gave Barry Murphy’s seven-year-old a fine ride and looked very much in control all the way up the straight as he readily repelled the challenge of Polished Steel.
Like An Open Book was in the process of running a fine race until tipping up at the second-last. If none the worse for the fall, a return to the winner’s enclosure should not be far away.
There was a good finish to the thurlesraces.ie Handicap Chase in which Ice Cold Soul, ridden by Eoin Walsh for Noel Meade and owners Gigginstown House Stud, stuck his neck out to deny Nobody Home by a neck.