Patrick Mullins entered the history books at Leopardstown when he surpassed an almost century old record for winners ridden in a calendar year by an amateur rider as he guided Zuzka to a comfortable victory in the Grade3 Mares Hurdle. He went on to complete a double aboard Outlander in the bumper, writes Ned Tierney.
The previous record was held by Billy Parkinson, a member of a great racing dynasty, who rode 72 winners in 1915 which was a considerable achievement at that time. The new figure set by Mullins is likely never to be equalled never mind beaten.
A sublime horseman, Patrick was gaining his 73rd victory of the year on Zuzka which went to post an odds on favourite. After tracking the leaders she skipped ahead at the second last flight and drew right away to win unchallenged by six and a half lengths from Burn And Turn which just held off Glens Melody for second place. Trained by the rider’s father, Willie, the Flemensfirth mare, which ran a corker in the Royal Bond, was stepping up in trip but it made little difference. She is going to take some beating in mares races over this two mile and four trip.
His 74th winner
Outlander provided Patrick with his 74th success of the year with a comfortable victory in what looked like a hugely competive bumper. Having opened his account at Fairyhouse, the Stowaway gelding was facing four other bumper winners but he was up to the challenge. He arrived on the bridle early in the straight and drew away to record a six length plus success from the Danesfort trained runner Posiden Sea.
This was yet another high class horse sired by the Kells based stallion Stowaway. With the new breeding season just around the corner Ronnie O’Neill is likely to be busy with enquiries for the services of his inmate.
Hurricane Fly showed that he is back to something resembling his best with an impressive victory in the Grade1 Festival Hurdle over a two mile trip. Starting at cramped odds the former Champion Hurdler never gave those brave enough to trade the slightest cause for concern as he was always chasing the leader.
Then he moved smoothly into the lead off the home turn and with Ruby Walsh not having to move a muscle careered away to take the money by seven lengths from the Dermot Weld trained Unaccompanied.
Having returned to action much earlier this season than in the previous one, Hurricane Fly showed that he is on the right track. He will put it up to Darlan and the rest when the Cheltenham Festival comes around.
Although Willie Mullins visited the winners enclosure at Naas on Sunday, courtesy of Marito in the Novice Chase, he suffered a major reverse when Champagne Fever was turned over in the two mile and four Grade2 Slaney Hurdle. Last year’s Cheltenham bumper winner, which was outpaced by Jezki in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, was stepping up in trip. He was the only one that punters were interested in, hence his starting odds of 1/4.
Never travelling well
As usual the six year old set off in front but one had the impression that he was never travelling with his customary ease. This was borne out when rider Ruby Walsh began to niggle him along well before the straight. At this point Minsk, which had raced in second place from flagfall, took over. However, Rule The World was travelling well behind.
Ridden by Davy Russell, the latter cruised into the lead after the second last flight and went away to win unchallenged by 16 lengths with Champagne Fever a further 24 lengths adrift in third place. This was certainly not the true running of Champagne Fever, who was subsequently reported to be suffering from a respiratory tract infection which explains somewhat his lacklustre display. Take nothing from the winner which is a hugely talented individual.
Winning handler Mouse Morris was not getting carried away by the result. He described his charge as a big raw bugger that will improve as time goes on. He is in no hurry with the son of Sulamani and will consult with the Gigginstown House team before making any further plans.
Marito made it two from two over fences to give Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh their customary winner. However, he had to battle hard before landing the spoils by a head from Mount Benbulben. This pair had the race to themselves from four out but a mistake at the last caused Mount Benbulben to lose some momentum.
However, he battled back well and his effort just failed. These are two decent first season chasers. Mount Benbulben in particular had something to prove with his jumping, but under Paul Carberry he came through with flying colours. Where they go from here remains to be seen, maybe the Arkle at Leopardstown next month as a prelude to Cheltenham?