Bellshill soars to take Naas prize as Mullins continues purple patch
The Willie Mullins' winners bandwagon stopped off at Naas yesterday to record a short-priced double, headlined by the success of Cheltenham prospect Bellshill in the €90,000 Lawlor's Hotel Novice Hurdle.
The promising six-year-old (2/5)made it three out of three over the smaller obstacles as he dispensed with his four rivals in emphatic fashion.
Last Encounter set the early pace with Bellshill and Stone Hard tracking the leader. While Stone Hard weakened out of contention before being pulled up, Bellshill cruised alongside Last Encounter at the second last in the hands of a confident Ruby Walsh.
From there the issue was not in doubt and Bellshill galloped five lengths clear of the long-time leader to claim this Grade One over two-and-a-half miles.
Mullins said: "He might need to brush up his jumping a bit. His jumping has been fantastic up to now, and I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was due to idling in front on that very testing ground.
"He's progressing nicely and has a huge cruising speed. He'll probably go next for the Deloitte at Leopardstown (on February 6)."
It was a quickfire double for Mullins, Walsh and owners Graham and Andrea Wylie following Shaneshill's success in the previous race, a novice chase over two miles.
The winner of a Thurles beginners' contest at the end of November was sent off the 4/7 favourite and followed up in good style despite giving his supporters a scare when he pecked on landing at the penultimate obstacle.
Walsh quickly gathered up the Mullins-trained seven-year-old, which sealed victory with a much better jump at the last. Sizing Codelco kept on for second place but was four-and-a-half lengths down at the line with Kitten Rock 16 lengths away in third.
"He gave me a fright at the second last and again at the last," said Mullins. "Ruby really asked him at the last, and at least he was slick under pressure. I was surprised how much speed he showed against good horses, and I'm very happy with him.
"The Grade One at Leopardstown (on February 6) would look the obvious target time-wise. He might just need a bit more practice on a racetrack."
All You Need made a pleasing debut over fences when proving two-and-a-half lengths too good for Melbourne Lady in the mares beginners chase, a race in which Mullins' odds-on favourite Uranna flopped in fourth.
Adrian Heskin had the 2/1 second favourite, owned by Barry Connell and trained by Alan Fleming, close to the pace before asking her to go on two out and she asserted after jumping the last.
Fleming and owner Connell doubled up with impressive debutant Zaheer (11/8 favourite), which was partnered to a comfortable victory by amateur Steven Clements in the bumper.
Henry de Bromhead's Hurry Henry justified 13/8 favouritism under Andrew Lynch by resisting the challenge of the Robert Tyner-trained Fairly Legal by a neck in the maiden hurdle.
Tyner went one better in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle as Vicangelome (7/2) edged out favourite Tudor City by a half-length thanks to the efforts of rider John Fitzpatrick.