On a day when his son Patrick equalled the amateur record on Union Dues in the bumper, Willie Mullins unleashed another potential star, Pont Alexandre to make an impressive Irish debut in the Grade 1 Navan Novice Hurdle in Navan yesterday.
The four-year-old French import made every yard of the running and had odds-on favourite Don Cossack well beaten when that rival crashed at the final flight, leaving Pont Alexandre to beat Busty Brown by thirteen lengths and prove the highlight of superb 32/1 four-timer for Ruby Walsh, to follow-up his treble at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Well-supported against the favourite, Pont Alexandre dictated the pace throughout. Davy Russell, on the favourite, got lower in the saddle on the approach to the third last, and never looked likely to threaten the winner, giving Russell his third fall from as many rides yesterday.
“I fell in love with him the first day I saw him,” stated Mullins afterwards. “They asked a big price, but I told my owner (Rich Ricci) that I had to have him. He wasn’t showing anything at home until a fortnight or three weeks ago, when he seemed to come alive.”
Mullins added: “He looks an exciting prospect and he’s as nice looking a horse as I’ve ever seen. I don’t have any real plan for him. The race in Naas (the Grade 2 Slaney Hurdle on January) would be an option, but Champagne Fever is heading there. They won’t be meeting.”
When quizzed about Cheltenham plans for Pont Alexandre, surely a chaser-in-the-making, Mullins responded: “He’ll be in both the Neptune and Albert Bartlett. His target will depend on the ground and we’ll keep him and Champagne Fever apart.”
Pont Alexandre is a best-priced 8/1, with Ladbrokes, for the Neptune while 7/1 favourite with both Boylesports and Stan James. Boylespiorts make him their 8/1 favourite for the Albert Bartlett (just 6/1 with Stan James).
Earlier, both Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh were clearly disappointed when 1/5 shot Boston Bob struggled to get the better of You Must Know Me on his eagerly awaited chasing debut in the opener. Having his first run since chasing home Brindisi Breeze at Cheltenham, Boston Bob jumped soundly and improved to track front-running You Must Know Me turning for home.
Nudged along by Ruby going to the second last, the odds-on favourite held a narrow advantage at the last and looked likely to forge clear. But Andrew Lynch rallied the longtime leader and, in a dogged battle, Boston Bob prevailed by a half-length, the pair stretching thirty-seven lengths clear of the third.
Willie Mullins admitted: “He seemed to make hard work of that. His jumping kept him in the race, but he wasn’t impressive. That ground is very, very heavy and the horse is very tired. It might take time for him to get over it. So I won’t be making any plans for him for the moment. Ruby said that he knew, going to the start that he would struggle in the ground.”
Following this inconclusive display, both Paddy Power (7/1) and Boylesports (6.1) left Boston Bon unchanged for the RSA Chase while Stan James pushed him out to 13.2 (from 11/2).
Mullins described Patrick as “hugely dedicated” and suggested “he very seldom makes a mistake” after Union Dues quickened away from odds-on favourite Champagne James in the bumper, the Grade 2 Irish Form Book Future Champions Flat Race.
Union Dues was Patrick’s 72nd winner of 2012, equalling an amateur record set by Billy Parkinson back in 1915, and is Cheltenham-bound, as his trainer explained: “We bought for a reasonable price at the Sales and he has been pleasing us at home. And, judging by the speed he showed there, I’ll be thinking of bringing him across the water.”
Patrick added: “He impressed me when Tony (Mullins) had him. I thought he was more of a good ground horse, with plenty of pace, and wanted to wait as long as I could, hoping to beat Ted’s horse for speed.”
Paddy Power make Union Dues 16/1 for the Cheltenham Bumper while Stan James introduced him as one of their 10/1 co-favourites for the race.
As part of his four-timer, Ruby Walsh also completed a double for local trainer Tony Martin, guiding 1/4 shot Wingtips to a convincing and long overdue win in the HRI On-Line Website Maiden Hurdle and following-up when brining Matsukaze from last to first to land the www.hri.ie/login Handicap Hurdle. After Wingtips’ eleven lengths win, Martin commented: “He’s been an unlucky horse and deserved that. He’s had some great runs but, because he swishes his tail, people call him names. I think it’s just a habit.
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