Willie Mullins had to wait until the very last race to get a winner on the scoresheet at Navan on Saturday, but it was worth holding on for.
The four-year-old Turcagua came to the rescue for the Mullins camp with an impressive looking victory in the bumper at the Meath venue.
A €130,000 purchase as a three-year-old, Turcagua was an expensive failure in the big sales bumper at Fairyhouse in the Spring, but punters were sufficiently impressed with that outing to send him off favourite at a shade of odds on.
Rider Patrick Mullins had his hands full to anchor his French-bred charge early on but eventually settled him just behind the leaders.
Nina Carberry’s mount Bonny Kate looked to have stolen the race when she slipped into a fairly commanding lead early in the straight. However, when the gun was put to his head Turcagua put down and battled to reel in Bonny Kate at the furlong marker and win going away by six lengths.
This looked a good staying performance by the winner, who will improve a good deal especially when stepped up in trip. Mullins revealed that he is having a look at the two mile and a half winners’ bumper at Leopardstown over Christmas or a two mile and three similar contest at Naas in January as the next target.
Blood Cotil was well-supported to give Mullins a winner in the two mile and four beginners chase but in the end he was well outpointed by the Noel Meade-trained but Kilkenny bred Wounded Warrior.
A smart horse over hurdles, Wounded Warrior had shaped well in his two outings over fences. He shaded favouritism over Blood Cotil in what was a good betting affair.
This pair were always in the leading group as Empire Of Dirt cut out the pace, but when jockey Bryan Cooper asked Wounded Warrior for his effort early in the straight the complexion of the race changed dramatically as the combination shot clear to win comfortably by six and a half lengths.
A good advertisement for his sire Shantou, who stands with Victor Connolly at Burgage Stud near Leighlinbridge, the winner is a fine big horse. After the race Meade said that he is going the right way. As he is only rising six he is an exciting prospect.
Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown house Stud looks to have an embarrassment of riches in the novice chase, as apart from Wounded Warrior he also owns Clarcam who ran out a most impressive winner of the two mile and a furlong novice chase.
Having chased the highly regarded Vautour home at the venue on his chasing debut, the four-year-old ticked all the boxes. It came as no surprise to see him start a warm favourite.
Ruby Walsh elected to make it a true run affair as he sent Un Beau Roman into the lead right from the drop of the flag, but by the time the field turned to face the judge it was clear that Clarcam was going by far the best.
Rider Bryan Cooper waited until the second last to press the go button aboard the latter and quickly settled the issue to land the spoils by five lengths from the Henry de Bromhead runner Sizing Codelco.
Winning handler Gordon Elliott admitted that this is a smashing young horse to have on his hands. He caught a real tarter in Vautour, but since there is no place else to go he will have to oppose his conqueror again at Leopardstown.
Shed maiden tag
The Jessica Harrington-trained Modem shed his maiden tag over hurdles at the third time of asking when he ran out a clear cut winner of the nineteen runner opening four-year-old maiden hurdle.
Having unseated his rider on his debut at Naas the Motivator gelding subsequently ran well at Gowran Park, but he was still easy to back as the money came for the J.P. McManus-owned The Big Apple who was an impressive bumper winner on his previous outing at Naas.
Given a confident ride by Robbie Power, Modem stuck to the inside rail and arrived with a perfectly-timed challenge after the second last flight. Jumping the last in front, Modem won nicely by a length and a half from Last Encounter, with Roconga a further three and three-quarter lengths back in third place.
Although she has fewer handicappers this year Ms Harrington has a nice team of young horses. She expects Modem to improve and will aim him at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting, where he should encounter his favoured ground.