Having broken every conceivable record last season Willie Mullins gave signs that his well-oiled winning machine is ready for takeoff once again.
Mullins was in the groove at Naas on Saturday, completing a four-timer partnered by the in-form Ruby Walsh and Willie’s son Patrick.
Rupert Lambe was first to bat in the opening two- mile conditions chase and he duly did the business, comfortably beating Dylan Ross. Making every post a winning one, Dylan Ross responded well to the urgings of Walsh going to the last fence. A good jump sealed the issue and he had two and three-quarter lengths to spare at the line.
Considered by connections to be a stronger horse this year, Rupert Lambe will be kept to the minimum trip for the time-being if suitable races can be found, otherwise a step up in trip will have to be considered.
Mullins and Walsh were back in the winners enclosure just half an hour later. This time Diakali was the provider as he comfortably landed the Grade Three Hurdle over a two mile trip.
A leading juvenile timber topper last season, recording two successes at the highest level, Diakali went to post an odds-on chance. Dictating the pace from flag-fall, the son of Sinndar was always travelling well and Walsh had only to use hands and heels to beat the Jessica Harrington runner Mr Fiftyone by an extended two lengths.
This was an impressive return to action by the winner, who has also won over a longer trip. He failed to cope with the likes of Our Conor last term so the likelihood is that he will campaign at the longer distance for the foreseeable future.
The age old adage of patience being a virtue was certainly true in the case of Clonard Lad who battled gamely to take the two mile and four maiden hurdle to give Mullins and Walsh their third victory of the afternoon.
Having spent three years on the sidelines due to injury, the son of Presenting had two good comeback efforts at Listowel and Punchestown. Students of the formbook decided that he was the one to side with so it was not surprising to see him go to post a short-priced favourite.
Walsh settled him just off the pace but struck for home at the hurdle before. From there the partnership had to pull out all the stops to take the money by half a length from Riverside City.
This was a good tough display by the eight-year-old. Mullins indicated that his charge will have no difficulty in handling a longer trip should the need arise.
There were several talking horses in the concluding bumper including Noel Meade’s Wounded Warrior and Shaneshill from the Mullins yard. Punters could not separate them in the betting market but it was the latter who came out on top to complete the four-timer for the trainer.
Always in the firing line, the four year old son of King’s Theatre took a definite advantage heading for the two furlong marker and ran all the way to the line to win by a couple of lengths from Joshua Tree with Wounded Warrior in third place.
While bumpers confined to a certain age are difficult to assess this could well turn out to be an informative contest. That theory will be put to the test over the Christmas period when the winner will attempt to land a winners bumper. Joshua Tree, who came from a long way back, put in his best work at the finish. If ridden more prominently he will be hard to beat when he next appears.
Since taking over as retained jockey to the Barry Connell team Danny Mullins is beginning to blossom as a national hunt rider. He was seen to further advantage when guiding The Tullow Tank to a narrow but deserved success in the two mile maiden for five-year-olds and upwards. This was a cracking contest with several animals in good bumper form and it will come as a major surprise if plenty of winners don’t emerging from it.
A Fairyhouse bumper winner The Tullow Tank, trained by Philip Fenton, almost came to grief four hurdles out but recovered well. In spite of not having the clearest of runs, Tank finished strongly to reel in Turnandgo in the dying strides and win by a length and a half.
A clearly pleased Fenton announced post-race that he has no definite plan for the horse at the present, but the Grade One Royal Bond at Fairyhouse could well be on the agenda.
Another heading to Fairyhouse, but for a different race, is Road To Riches who opened his chasing account when defeating Foxrock in the two mile and three furlong beginners chase.
According to trainer Noel Meade, the secret to the six-year-old is keeping him fresh. The Drinmore Chase is the likely option.