Brilliant Arvika stars in Mullins' hat-trick
On a Fairyhouse spread boasting three marquee Grade Ones, Arvika Ligeonniere stole the show with a virtuoso display under Ruby Walsh in the Drinmore Novices' Chase.
It was the third Grade One that Walsh had won this season and save for the customary peek over his shoulder late on, he didn't see another horse in any of them. Yesterday, Arvika Ligeonniere dictated the terms of engagement at will.
If the two-and-a-half-mile contest had been a Premier League match, the opposition fans would have soon been on their feet, wildly gesticulating about conceding an early advantage. By halftime, they would have been heading down the exit steps.
It was that easy for Willie Mullins' seven-year-old, which treated lesser opposition with similar contempt on its first start for two years when making its fencing bow at Punchestown in May. He fenced fluently and lolloped away at his ease in the testing conditions, establishing what must have been a 25-length at its height.
Davy Russell eventually got the favourite Dedigout motoring to come out of the pack for second, but still fell short by 11 lengths in the Bar One Racing-sponsored event.
"That was very impressive," the champion trainer admitted after his Rich Ricci-owned 2/1 shot delivered him a first win in this for 13 years. "He jumped fantastic and has a tremendous cruising speed. I certainly wouldn't be afraid to drop him back to two miles, so I'd imagine we'll look at doing so at Leopardstown over Christmas."
Arvika Ligeonniere was slashed to as low as 7/1 from 20/1 for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March. Mullins, Walsh and Ricci completed a big-race double when Zaidpour floored last year's heroine Voler La Vedette in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle.
The pair had started 7/4 joint-favourites for a weak renewal of a two-and-a-half mile affair with a rich tradition. After trailing one another in civilised fashion for a long time, the field bunched up from three-out.
Zaidpour and Voler La Vedette crossed the last together, but Colm Murphy's mare tired on the run-in, with Monksland taking second in the end.
"We might go down the World Hurdle route," Mullins suggested afterwards, though the Big Buck's camp won't be too concerned. The Closutton handler went on to net a 40/1 treble when his son Patrick took the bumper at 4/1 on Gigginstown's Outlander.
The Royal Bond Novice Hurdle was a close-run, informative edition. Again, Walsh set out to make all on Champagne Fever, but Minsk and Jezki loomed up turning in.
Minsk was first to crack. Such was Barry Geraghty's confidence on Jezki, however, that he took a slight pull between the last two flights. For a brief moment as the partnership touched down upsides Champagne Fever at the last, you wondered if the favourite might reaffirm his superiority of last season, but Jezki soon knuckled down.
He strode a length and a half clear to give Jessica Harrington her third win in a race that her brilliant two-mile champion chaser Moscow Flyer landed 13 years ago. "I'm absolutely thrilled," Harrington said of the 9/4 shot, which is owned and was bred by local man Gerard McGrath.
"He's only four and he's bound to improve a bit more for experience. The Supreme Novices' Hurdle is the long-term target."
She confirmed that Leopardstown is an option before that for Jezki, which now vies for the market lead in the Supreme Novices' at 10/1.
Our Conor earned quotes of 14/1 for the Triumph Hurdle after justifying odds-on status in the Grade Three juvenile hurdle for Bryan Cooper and Dessie Hughes, while the Curragh trainer's conditional jockey Mark Enright was brilliant in getting Murchu home in the Caffrey's Bar & Restaurant Chase.
Ruby Walsh opted out of his ride on Give Us A Hand after aggravating a wrist injury and he nearly missed another winner as Paul Carberry stood in to push the John 'Shark' Hanlon-trained 12/1 winner to a nose in a three-way photo. The verdict completed a stunning 142/1 double for the impressive 5lb claiming Enright, who toppled the Geraghty-ridden Our Girl Salley on 10/1 shot Avondhu Lady.
The winning pot of €19,500 in that mares' chase was as big as Fermoy-based David Fenton has ever plundered.