FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2017





A red-letter day for amateur Patrick Mullins continued when, 35 minutes after winning the Grade 1 BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle, he claimed another top-flight success aboard Baccardys (10/1) in the Grade 1 TATTERSALLS IRELAND CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE over two and a half miles.


The-five-year-old came out best by a short-head from 13/8 Fav Finian’s Oscar with a victory that helped both his own bid for the amateur riders’ title and his father Willie’s efforts to retain the trainers’ championship.


“I am three behind now! It is amazing the difference a day makes,” said Patrick Mullins. “It didn’t quite go to plan, the plan was to follow Ruby. I wasn’t sure coming to the last, although I knew I was making a little bit of ground. I was on no stride which wasn’t ideal but the other horse hasn’t winged it either.


“I thought I might have been too far back because I lost my position down the back straight. He just wasn’t jumping slick enough. I took a chance and thought I would bring him with one run.


“I think being Willie Mullins’ son is big help and I have to say thanks to him and the owners for letting me ride this horse. He is a fantastic horse and it is not often you get a chance to ride a horse like this.”


Willie Mullins added: “That was great, they met the last right and won the race. Patrick shows huge commitment in appreciation of the position he’s in. But he wouldn’t be riding these horses if I didn’t think he was up to it – I wouldn’t let him if he wasn’t good enough.


“The horse was bought to go chasing and that’s what he’ll be doing next season. Ruby said Let’s Dance didn’t travel with her usual fluency and maybe it was a race too far for her.”


The Mullins duo went on to complete a treble when Patrick steered Montalbano (11/4) to victory ahead of stablemate Riven Light, the mount of Ruby Walsh, in the two-mile DONOHUE MARQUEES NOVICE HURDLE.


“Montalbano promised a lot earlier but probably needed good ground. I think Riven Light idled a bit in front and we’ll try to rectify that,” said Willie Mullins, who was €94,295 ahead of Gordon Elliott in the title race before the final race.


Balnaslow (4/1), one of six horses trained by Graham McKeever, performed with credit at Cheltenham and Aintree this year and finally claimed a big-race success when landing the STAR BEST FOR RACING COVERAGE CHAMPION HUNTERS CHASE.


“Balnaslow is a tough old bugger. I suppose coming out of Loughanmore, where he was in his younger days, they are bred to be Spartans,” said McKeever. “He deserved it after running massive races in Cheltenham and Aintree. The man on his back never gave up. He hasn’t surprised me this season, this was what he was bought to do and if he’s OK tomorrow he’ll go on to Stratford.”


Winning rider Derek O’Connor said: “What a wonderful horse. He was so competitive in Cheltenham for a long way but didn’t stay the trip and then he was flying home in Aintree, so I was quietly confident three miles was his trip.


“I stayed wide today and he jumped brilliant. Even down to the last he was really tired but still gave me everything. This is my sphere – the point-to-point and hunter chases – so it is a lovely feeling to win.


“I must say Graham McKeever brought this horse out of the Gigginstown dispersal at Doncaster and has absolutely transformed him. The sale was in September and here is today winning the champion hunters’ chase. It is a wonderful training achievement.”


Owner Peggy Hagan, who will shortly turn 90, added: “He was a bit unlucky not to have won at Aintree or Cheltenham. Graham has had great patience with the horses, all credit to him and to Derek, who make a great team. The only time I get out these days is to come to these Festivals or to go to the doctor!”




Today’s attendance was 30,063, up from 29,419 on the same day last year.

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