Willie Mullins took the two graded races on a good card in Thurles and added a third winner when Aubrey McMahon rode his first winner over hurdles.
Allaho is sure to have pleased his trainer with the manner in which he made light of his task in the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase. Certainly helped by the drop in grade and trip, he warmed to his task quite quickly and his rider, Paul Townend, was able to control the race most of the way.
Elimay, who lacks size but nothing in the effort she is willing to give, was heavily backed against her stablemate and she gave him a fright. Under a patient ride by Mark Walsh, she crept into contention before launching a challenge between the last two.
She was upside her stablemate over the last but one Townend asked his mount to quicken up on the short run-in the response was emphatic.
Although the race lacked depth, this was a pleasing step in the right direction for one of last season’s leading novices, and his next task will be in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The runner-up, who was a proverbial mile clear of the remainder, surely ran a career best and she has the option of the Mares’ Chase at the Festival
“I think he was just idling in front all the time,” said Mullins. “This might be more his trip, where he can jump and gallop. I was a little worried when Elimay got to Allaho but he picked up and went away like a decent horse.
“Today was good in terms of his jumping. David (Mullins) said he didn’t jump well in the fog in the John Durkan at Punchestown. Paul rode him in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown and we came away disappointed but at least he’s making progress. I think he’s going to improve away into the spring, which the time of the year you want him improving.
“He is a huge horse. I thought he could be a three-miler but maybe he’s better coming back to two and a half miles. We’re looking forward to his next run. I’d imagine he’ll go straight to Cheltenham, and I’d be thinking he could go for the Ryanair. Elimay ran a decent race again. We’ll probably go for the Opera Hat at Naas and then head on to the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham after that.”
Townend kept it simple aboard Colreevy, on which he made virtually every yard of the running in the Coolmore INH Sires Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares’ Novice Chase. His mount was still travelling well within herself when her only serious challenger, Scarlet And Dove, crashed out at the second-last. The latter’s jumping had lacked fluency to this point, but she still held every chance before her departure. Her fall left Colreevy to coast home in her own time, considerably clear of Mount Ida.
“She jumps very well and takes it all in her stride,” said Mullins of the mare who has won a Grade 1 bumper and a Grade 1 Chase. “Paul was very happy with her, and how she did everything with no fuss.
“There is a Grade 2 chase in Limerick in March that we are looking at next, but whether she has higher expectations or not I don’t know.”
Mullins completed a treble when Eurotiep trounced his rivals in the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle. His task was made easier by the wayward antics of odds-on favourite Vintage Prosecco, who gave his rider a torrid time, but it’s difficult to get past the fact the winner was deeply impressive. He goes through testing ground particularly easily and will improve again when he steps up in trip.
“That’s Aubrey’s first winner over hurdles, and he wouldn’t have had too many rides,” said Mullins. “It was a good performance from the horse. He ran a cracker the last day, in a bumper. We will stay novice hurdling now, and I wouldn’t be afraid to go out in trip with him.”
Mullins’ one reverse on the day came in the WT O’Grady Memorial Irish EBF Novice Hurdle, which went to the Gordon Elliott-trained Torygraph.
Mullins’ Fighter Allen was heavily backed into favouritism but had no extra to give close home as Torygraph, a resolute and progressive sort who gives the impression he would stay forever, picked up strongly to win readily under Jack Kennedy. Angels Dawn caught the eye with her finishing effort to take second place.
Eoin McCarthy’s star continues to rise, and Blanketontheground became his eighth winner of the season when landing the Leugh Handicap Hurdle. Gearoid Brouder brought his mount with a late rush to challenge favourite Whatsnotoknow, and she stretched away late on to win by four lengths.
Emmet Mullins was clearly very relieved to see Noble Yeats run away with the first division of the Thurles Bumper. “That was more like it,” said Mullins. “We were very disappointed when he was beaten in Limerick. I don’t know where he’ll go next, but I think we can look forward to better things when he goes jumping.”
Churchstonewarrior ran out an easy winner of the second division for Jonathan Sweeney and jockey Ray Barron. Ridden patiently, he moved up going well on the turn for home and ran on strongly to go clear of promising newcomer Captain Westie.
“I’m very happy with that and he did it well,” said Sweeney. “The plan was to stay over hurdles, but this came up at a suitable trip, so we said we’d come here.”
He looks a nice prospect to return to hurdles and should have little trouble getting off the mark in that sphere.