WHEN was the last time Willie Mullins sent out a 50/1 winner? Race-goers were left scurrying for their record books to find out after Tango Banbou did just that when capturing the two mile novice hurdle in the hands of Emmet Mullins at Gowran Park on Saturday.
The French import had been a major disappointment over fences and was reverting to hurdling in an effort to find his correct vocation. Sent to the front right from the drop of the flag by his rider, Tango Banbou made every post a winning one and pulled out plenty in the straight to see off the challenge of Touch Back by five and a half lengths with the favourite Maggie Neary filling third position. The better fancied Mullins runner Laganbank was back in fourth.
There was almost an eerie silence as Tango Banbou arrived back in the winner’s enclosure, as very few among the attendance seemed to have had an investment. This was as fine a piece of riding as one could wish to see by Emmet Mullins, who was able to give his mount a breather after leaving the back straight while the horse’s fluent hurdling was also a big help.
In his post-race remarks Mullins admitted to being surprised by the result, as his charge had let the side down thus far. Hurdling might well be his game and the next few weeks will reveal if this is the case.
This was the second leg of a double for the trainer as he had earlier sent out Loch Ard to capture the opening two mile and four maiden hurdle in good style.
With placed form on the level last season, when trained by David Wachman, the Pivotal gelding ran a cracker on his hurdling debut behind Burrenbridge Lodge in a Grade Two contest at Fairyhouse. On that form he was entitled to start at odds-on even though his stamina was an unknown quantity.
Rider Paul Townend dropped him in behind the leaders but he was clearly travelling best of all going to the second last flight of hurdles. At this point the Jimmy Mangan representative Cyprusormilan, which was attempting to make all the running, began to come under pressure. When Townend shot Loch Ard to the front between the final two hurdles he quickly put the race to bed, going away to win comfortably by two and three-quarter lengths from Beachdale Lad.
On the face of things this was a nice display by the winner. Fairyhouse may come too soon for him but Punchestown will most definitely be on his agenda.
After hitting the crossbar on a few occasions Its The Ice I Like finally came good when he got the better of Are Ya Right Chief in the older horses maiden hurdle over two mile and four.
An even money favourite, the son of Oscar was never too far out of his ground before hitting the front at the penultimate hurdle. Running on strongly, the winner landed the spoils by a couple of lengths.
Winning handler Robert Tyner told me that his charge is inclined to idle in front but he was well pleased by the display. He will now be on the lookout for a winner’s contest before he sends the horse out to grass for the Summer.
Eddie Hales is a dab hand at producing horses to win first time up and he did it again when taking the bumper courtesy of Hidden Lite, with Jane Mangan giving further proof of her ability as a top lady rider. Setting off in front, the Milan filly never saw another rival. With Ms Mangan keeping her up to her work, the combination had four and a half lengths to spare over Honourable Lady.
This pair had the race to themselves from a long way out, which might suggest that they are up to average. Like all residents of the yard the winner already has a ‘For Sale’ tag on her.
Callan handler John O’Shea landed a tidy gamble at Cork on Thursday when Novarov captured the three mile 98-121 handicap hurdle with a little in hand.
Settled in mid division by rider Sean McDermott, the six-year-old made good progress in the straight to be in contention between the final two hurdles. McDermott switched his mount to the inside rail at the last and from there the combination pulled clear to win nicely a length and a quarter from Daring Article.
There was plenty of confidence behind the winner as he was backed from 5/1 and 6/1 into 11/4. He fully deserved his victory as he had been a shade unlucky in his previous couple of outings. Staying is obviously his game and he is now on course for Fairyhouse and Punchestown where he is likely to have a following based on this showing.
On My Own is proving to be a good money-spinner for trainer Philip Fenton and landed his third success of the season when he took the 84-102 handicap hurdle under a strong ride from Brian O’Connell.
Easy enough to back the Shemazar gelding set off in front but was joined by Mark Me Up after the penultimate hurdle. Mark Me Up seemed to be getting on top but made a dreadful error at the last. Rider Declan Bates did well to keep the partnership intact and rallied his mount to such an extent that he would have got up in another few strides, but the post arrived in time for On My Own, who took the money by a head.