Saddling four timers is nothing new for Willie Mullins, who conquered Fairyhouse on Saturday with horses that could be strong Cheltenham tips.
The opening juvenile hurdle was a case in point as Mullins saddled the first two home, Abbyssial getting the better of Adriana Des Mottes.
Although unbeaten in his two outings over hurdles in this country Abbyssial is generally considered to be a chaser in the making and was thought to be inferior to Adriana Des Mottes, who trounced her field at Punchestown in December.
Paul Townend set off in front aboard Abbyssial and, although not foot perfect at all his hurdles, had enough in hand to beat Adriana Des Mottes by half a length.
This was certainly a good performance by the son of Beneficial but he raised some eyebrows by swishing his tail when shown the whip. There may be a very simple explanation for this, but his resolve can’t be questioned. He could well be on the team for the Triumph Hurdle.
In these days of high prices for the top store horses it’s good to see that bargains can still be found at the bottom end of the market, something Westhorpe proved by taking the bumper.
Costing only €2,500 as a three-year-old, the son of Westerner came into the race with something of a reputation. Punters took the hint, sending him off favourite in spite of the confidence behind the Gigginstown House runner Officer Cadet.
Given a patient ride by Patrick Mullins, Westhorpe got into contention before taking over early in the straight and running all the way to the line where he had a length and a quarter to spare over Fine Article. Officer Cadet was a disappointing third, some 18 lengths back.
This was a highly promising first effort from the winner. It will be interesting to see how he fits into Mullins’ plans for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.
Mullins also visited the winner’s enclosure when Beluckyagain and On His Own justified favouritism.
The Old Vic mare Beluckyagain, a Thurles bumper winner, made a winning debut over hurdles when landing the two mile mares maiden hurdle in workmanlike fashion. Never too far out of her ground, the six-year-old came for her race in the straight and kept finding enough to see off the challenge of Circe’s Island by two and a half lengths.
Described by Mullins as a tough mare that keeps galloping, the winner will probably improve on better ground. Her pedigree suggests that a longer trip is what she needs.
On His Own gave Mullins some food for thought as he comprehensively out pointed Mount Benbulben in the Grade Two Bobbyjo Chase over three miles and a furlong. Ahead from as early as the second fence, the Presenting gelding never saw another rival as he passed the post 12 lengths ahead of Mount Benbulben.
Originally considered a Grand National horse, the 10-year-old gave connections plenty to chew on with this display. Mullins admitted that he will have to talk to the owners before making definite plans. The Punchestown Gold Cup is a likely option for the dual Thyestes Chase winner, as the owners have a National contender in the shape of prince De Beauchene.
Danny Mullins is riding plenty of winners for Barry Connell and the pair combined to capture the two mile and four 110-113 hanicap hurdle with Valmy Baie.
The French-bred horse, who posted a decent effort for his first time on Irish soil in a maiden hurdle at Cork in November, had a nice following at fancy prices in the betting market.
Mullins had a few arguments with him to get him anchored early on but he won the battle and was clearly travelling best of all turning to face the judge. The rider waited until the run to the final flight before sending his mount to the front and although not fluent Valmy Baie ran on strongly to hit the wire two and a quarter lengths to the good from Sullane Chief.
Improving all the time
After the race winning handler Gordon Elliott said that his charge is improving all the time. He will return to the venue at the big Easter meeting for another handicap.
Seabass began his build up for a tilt bat the Aintree Grand National when finishing second to Warne in the extended two mile and five hunters chase. Off the track since the Summer, Seabass suffered a bout of colic before Christmas and has been hunting of late to sweeten him up. He was always in the firing line but the lack of a recent outing told against him from the second last fence.
Trainer Ted Walsh revealed that he was well satisfied with the outing. He will have at least another run before the big race at Aintree, when it is hoped that he can improve on his previous third place effort.