THE old adage of ‘back Noel Meade before Christmas and Willie Mullins thereafter’ is beginning to ring true.
With the Meade yard firing on all cylinders at present, Mullins is just beginning to hit top gear. Last week proved that as the trainer visiting the winners’ enclosure on both sides of the water.
Now and again one needs to have lady luck on their side and this was the case at Clonmel on Thursday when Blazing Tempo scored a somewhat fortuitous success in a grief-stricken Grade Three Mares Chase over two mile and four furlongs.
This was a contest of real quality, even though only six went to post. The Peter Fahy runner Shop DJ started favourite, even though there was plenty of money for the Mullins representative. Stable jockey Ruby Walsh did the steering and had his mount lying handy as Our Victoria took over from For Bill after less than a mile.
There was little change in the order lining up the second last fence where the leader crashed and badly hampered Blazing Tempo. Walsh did well to keep the partnership intact but it looked as though the chance of victory had all but gone when Shop DJ came to grief at the final fence, bringing down Definite Class.
This changed the complexion of the race completely, as Blazing Tempo was now left in front. She gratefully accepted the situation, staying on up the hill to take the money by three and a half lengths from the rank outsider Gentle Alice, with For Bill two and a quarter lengths further adrift in third place.
Blazing Tempo has been a great servant to Mullins. She won this race as a novice a year ago and has gone on to great things in the meantime with a stunning victory in the Galway Plate and a very creditable fourth place in the hugely competitive Kerry national at Listowel.
The aforementioned Noel Meade has a high class recruit to hurdling in the shape of Texas Jack, which easily outpointed the hitherto unbeaten Make A Track in the opening two mile and a half novice hurdle.
Winner of the Land Rover bumper back in May, the son of Curtain Time shaped well when making a successful debut over hurdles at Fairyhouse last month. On the evidence supplied here he will take all the beating in the good staying novice events in the coming months.
Backed as though defeat was out of the question, Texas Jack was dropped out early on by jockey Paul Carberry. He made eye-catching progress to get on terms turning to face the judge and with Carberry scarcely having to move a muscle beat Make A Track by a length and a quarter.
Bigger tests lie ahead for the five-year-old but Meade is confident that his charge has the ability to take on all comers. He will have a chat with the owner before making a decision, but the Monksfield Novice Hurdle is very much in his thoughts.
The feature race on the card was the Grade Two Clonmel Oil Chase, where the Edward O’Grady representative Tranquil Sea scored back-to-back victories and lined himself up for a tilt at the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown.
Never far removed from the leaders, Tranquil Sea was being ridden along half a mile out by rider Barry Geraghty but responded in a positive fashion. Taking over on the run to the second last fence, Tranquil Sea dealt with the challenge of Psycho a comfortable four lengths.
The Muroto gelding Out Now completed a double for the Killenaule handler when running out a clear nine and a half length winner of the 112-134 handicap chase in the very capable hands of Ruby Walsh.
While Willie Mullins had his wife Jackie and son Patrick overseeing things at Cheltenham the man himself was on duty at Naas on Saturday where he bagged a brace courtesy of Quel Esprit and Lambro and the reigning champion jockey Paul Townend.
An ultra smart horse as a novice hurdler, Quel Esprit has taken his time to get his act together over fences but was completing at the highest level. The lesser company of the two mile and three conditions chase provided him with an ideal opportunity to get back on the winning trail and he did the business in fine style.
After tracking the leader on the outside the seven-year-old was sent to the front by Townend around the halfway point. He kept up the gallop to hit the wire seven lengths to the good over Foildubh. This was a nice display by the winner and if he can get his jumping sorted out he will be tough nut to crack over the coming months.
The two mile and three beginners chase looked a competitive affair on paper but provided a clear winner in the Mullins runner Lambro. Always in the leading group, Lambro edged ahead at the last fence. With Townend keeping him up to his work he drew away to beat Shinrock Paddy by four and a half lengths. This was a very taking performance by the winner. He went into many a notebook as a likely candidate for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham.
Townend is certainly on a roll at the moment and joined forces with Dermot Weld to capture the two mile Listed Hurdle with Unaccompanied. Never in trouble, she easily disposed of the challenge of Sailors Warn by three lengths. Weld is undecided about the filly’s next assignment but she holds an engagement in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle among others.