SCEAUX GOOD FOR MULLINS – first day Punchestown 2018 Irish National Hunt Festival


       Trainer Willie Mullins made a dream start in his bid to retain the Irish trainers’ championship on the opening day of the 2018 Punchestown Festival.

He won three of the day’s first four races and had narrowed the gap in the title race to trail rival Gordon Elliott by €226,714.

Un De Sceaux, the 9/2 chance ridden by Mullins’ son Patrick, provided the icing when making all to come home three and three-quarter lengths ahead of stablemate Douvan (4/5 favourite) in the €275,000 Grade 1 BOYLESPORTS CHAMPION CHASE.

“It’s been a very good start to the week, so far so good,” said an understated Mullins. “I thought looking at Un De Sceaux that he was not really going in the first half of the race. He was on the wrong leg and not galloping out. Patrick said that he started to gallop at the first one down the back so decided to let him go on because at least he was moving well.

       “Paul (Townend on Douvan) thought he might have had enough in the tank to catch Un De Sceaux, but when he asked him to move he slightly disappointed. But Douvan showed he is no back number. Paul said he just didn’t lengthen his stride as he thought he might. It was a hell of a performance from the winner, especially as he had been to Cheltenham and Fairyhouse.

         “I was disappointed with Douvan. I don’t know why he did what he did. Maybe we minded him a bit too much after Cheltenham. We are always trying to mind him, but maybe I should have run him in Fairyhouse or given him a few extra gallops.”

       Amateur rider Patrick Mullins added: ”I have been dreaming about riding that horse, and since I was told I would be riding him, I have been like Charlie when he got the golden ticket in Willy Wonka. I schooled Un De Sceaux yesterday and even schooling him was some buzz, but it took him a mile to warm into the race. He did not jump or travel as well as he can and I was a little bit worried but I think that was down to the good ground.

       “Once he warmed up and started going, I just let him at it. He runs horses into the ground, doesn’t he? Realistically, I did not think he was going to beat Douvan or maybe Min on this ground over this trip. He is a horse that always runs well though so you can never count him out.”

Mullins had his first strike of the week when 25/1 chance Draconien showed a good burst of speed to win the Grade 1 HERALD CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE by two and a quarter lengths from the British-trained Vision Des Flos (Colin Tizzard/Robbie Power, 11/1). The trainer also saddled the 11/10 favourite Getabird, who led before fading to seventh.

“There was no pace when he was second to Getabird at Fairyhouse last time, but it was a different story today,” said Mullins. “There was so much pace today that it played into his hands. He’s a good horse. He always was in the beginning but he just lost his way. He’ll probably go out to grass, the only option would be to go for the Prix la Barka.”

Jockey Noel Fehily added: “He ran a nice race on very bad ground at Fairyhouse behind Getabird – the better ground and gallop has suited this horse today. He settled a bit better and has done it nicely. Willie told me to make sure I got him settled because he can get quite keen, but the better gallop helped and he switched off well.”

Joe Foley, representing owner Steve Parkin of Clipper Logistics, commented:“Steve is absolutely over the moon – he was hoping to come today, but was a little busy in London, so he is coming over for Thursday and Friday. We will celebrate in the Lord Bagenal with Willie then. This horse has had little bits of problems, but Willie has sorted him out. Noel told me after he was second at Fairyhouse that he would beat Getabird next time out. I reminded him of it in the parade ring beforehand. Willie has been giving be a lot of thumbs up on this horse all winter. I know it went a little bit wrong in the middle, but I think that he is pretty promising. We will have to have a chat about hurdling or chasing next year, but he jumps very well and is a beautiful, athletic horse. We will talk over a glass of 7up in the Lord Bagenal!”

       Mullins was on the mark again when Rachael Blackmore steered True Self (12/1) to victory in the KILLASHEE HANDICAP HURDLE.

       Blackmore said: “I think if you are getting your leg over one of Willie’s this week, you could be on the right one, as you saw in the second race (Draconien). To get these opportunities is brilliant. True Self had been doing good work at home and the ground had dried up a bit today [compared to last time] and that helped her a bit. She travelled really well. Willie said to keep her out with a bit of light, so I did that, and I turned in going really well. I was probably in front a bit soon, but I kicked on and had to commit to it at that stage. She jumped the last and did it well.”

       Mullins added: “Rachael should be called a good jockey, not a lady jockey. This mare was very well bought. She disappointed at Fairyhouse. but the ground was very tacky the day. This was better for her today.”

The opening KILDARE HUNT CLUB FR SEAN BREEN MEMORIAL CHASE FOR THE LADIES PERPETUAL CUP went to 16/1 shot Just Wait And See, trained by John Gleeson and ridden by his son Billy, who just saw off the 7/4 favourite Blue Templar by a head.

The winning jockey said:“We have had Just Wait And See since he was four and he’s pulled up more times than he has placed. He’s a great fun horse – he has jumped so many fences and doesn’t really make mistakes. Thankfully, he got me there in the end.”

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