THE Presenting gelding On His Own gave Willie Mullins his fourth success in the Thyestes Chase with a most impressive victory at Gowran Park.
As he has done many times in the past jockey David Casey played his role as super sub for the stable when giving the eight-year-old a cracking ride. Mullins saddled no less than four runners in the race, including the joint favourite Shakervilz, but after missing the break under Ruby Walsh this fellow never counted and was eventually pulled up.
With E52,000 to the winner and a maximum field of 18 runners this was a hugely competitive three mile contest. Bob Lingo from the Tom Mullins yard set a good gallop until running out of steam going down the back straight for the final time.
At this point On His Own, which had been always prominent, took over. In spite of being a shade awkward at the second last On His Own won by 13 lengths from Tullintain, with the rank outsider Jadanli just half a length further in arrears in third place.
One of seven horses owned by Graham Wylie to join the Mullins string when English trainer Howard Johnston lost his licence, On His Own was a huge disappointment when heavily supported for the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over the Christmas period. As a consequence he was easy to back, but he left that form well behind. A fine big strapping horse he looks nailed on as an Aintree Grand National contender - it’s not outside the bounds of possibility that he could repeat the feat of Hedgehunter which landed the Thyestes on the way to National glory back in 2004.
Mullins had earlier taken the Grade Two three mile John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle after a tremendous battle with the mare Voler La Vedette. Having run up a sequence of victories in recent times Voler La Vedette was made a warm favourite to credit Kilkenny owner Margaret Brophy with yet another success - she bypassed the Irish Champion Hurdle and a clash with Hurricane Fly - but the plan came unstuck as she went under by a length to Zaidpour.
Ruby Walsh and Zaidpour threw down the gauntlet to the rest of the field right from the drop of the flag and dictated matters on their own terms. Voler La Vedette fought for her head for much of the journey and this eventually took its toll as she failed to get to the leader and went under by a length.
Tackling the trip for the first time Zaidpour saw out every step of the journey in the testing conditions. Now Mullins must decide between having a crack at the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham or the longer World Hurdle at the same venue. On this evidence the latter race would seem to be the correct option, as he hardly has the gears to trouble the specialist two milers on what is usually good ground at the Cotswolds.
Windgap trainer Kieran Purcell has done a splendid job in keeping Burrenbridge Lodge fresh and well in what has been a long season. The horse repaid him handsomely by landing the opening juvenile hurdle after a good scrap with One Cool Shabra.
Having opened his hurdling account in the first juvenile hurdle of the season at Roscommon, the Ivan Denisovich gelding has been a model of consistency ever since. This was a cracking contest and any one of four animals could be called the winner rising to the second last flight.
Burrenbridge Lodge was one of the first to come under pressure but he showed what a tough customer he is by responding to the urgings of rider Tom Doyle to lead over the last. In spite of coming off a straight line he edged out One Cool Shabra by a length and a half with the Willie Mullins trained favourite Gorgeous Sixty just half a length further adrift in third place.
A big horse with a fine presence, the winner has an entry in the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown. Connections will wait and see how he comes out of this face before making any further plans.
The Four Star Langton House Hotel maiden hurdle was a good betting race with Alf Wright, Inish Island as well as Primroseandblue all coming in for significant support. In the end it was Snow Spell, with the evergreen Tom Tracey on board, that captured the spoils.
Trained by Tom Foley, the grey daughter of Daylami was always close to the pace. She took over before the straight and although Primroseandblue threw own a challenge in the straight Snow Spell was not going to be denied and drew away after the final flight to win by five and a half lengths.
Not an easy mare to keep sound, the winner fell in the race that was won by her stable companion Golanbrook here before Christmas but was unfancied on that occasion. She was still easy to back on this occasion; there was no doubt about her superiority.
Morning Royalty, representing the Willie Mullins stable, tried to defy his penalty in the concluding winners contest but he came up short against the well regarded Moscow Mannon. After attempting to make all the running Morning Royalty was reeled in at the two furlong marker and eventually beaten by seven lengths.
Having made the long journey from Downpatrick connections of the winner were naturally well pleased. Trainer Brian Hamilton revealed that he will now have to think seriously about the Cheltenham Bumper.