Mullins bags four as Tempo sets the pace
IMPROVING mare Blazing Tempo was the star of a stunning 17/1 four-timer for trainer Willie Mullins at Fairyhouse yesterday.
Vesper Bell, Ceol Rua and Champagne Fever were also on target for the County Carlow handler, but it was the gutsy mare who stole the show.
The eight-year-old continued her rise up the ladder with a surprise win over Noble Prince in the featured Normans Grove Chase. Winner of the Galway Plate during the summer, she showed she is still on the upgrade when having too many guns for the 9/10 favourite on the dash to the line.
Ruby Walsh bided his time, placing her at the rear as Saludos made the running until asking Blazing Tempo to take closer order before the final turn.
Tranquil Sea threatened to take a hand in the finish, but he was swept aside and it was left to the two protagonists to fight out the finish, with Blazing Tempo prevailing by three-quarters of a length.
"She is holding her form and that was nice to win, given the ground," said Mullins.
"We had the choice of coming here or going to the Boylesports Hurdle, but rather than take on a handicap with 20 runners, we decided to take our chance today even though the ground might not be as suitable.
"I was very pleased with that, but (I'm) not sure where we'll go, as she's done more than enough. She's an iron mare and has been on the go since Galway, doing it in all sorts of ground.
"She'll get an entry for the Ryanair Chase, but I'm not sure if she's good enough."
Walsh enjoyed a hat-trick thanks to earlier wins on Vesper Bell and Ceol Rua.
Odds-on favourite Vesper Bell strode away in style to take the opening maiden hurdle by nine lengths from Griesnau, which pipped the winner's stablemate Lord Gale for second.
Mullins said: "He did it the hard way, but did it well. We'll step him up in trip and find something over two-mile-six or three miles if we can.
"His owners probably want to go for the Albert Bartlett Hurdle at Cheltenham."
Ceol Rua (6/4f) gained a half-length verdict over Shadow Eile in the Easter 8th-10th April Mares Novice Hurdle.
"Ceol Rua's jumping has improved and it made all the difference. She is learning with experience and I imagine the mares' hurdle at Punchestown should be the aim," Mullins explained.
"She'll probably go for a novice hurdle in between and her pedigree suggests she wants better ground -- she had a good run at Aintree on good ground."
Rich Ricci, owner of Vesper Bell and Blazing Tempo, had his colours carried to a treble when Champagne Fever, ridden by the trainer's son Patrick Mullins, ran the field ragged in the closing bumper.
Shot From The Hip produced a nice turn of foot to overcome Ninetieth Minute for his first win over fences in the beginners chase.
Edward O'Grady's charge did not jump the last as well as Ninetieth Minute, but kept straighter than his rival on the run-in.
The 4/5 chance, ridden by Mark Walsh, got up in the final 100 yards to win by half a length.
"He had it all to do today -- the first two horses are both good horses," O'Grady said.
"I wanted to get his jumping right today and get that win out of the way.
"That's mission accomplished now and we'll probably go for a winners' race somewhere now."
Caolaneoin looks a nice prospect for Seamus Foley after opening his account in the Fairyhouse Schooling Races Maiden Hurdle under Paul Townend, while Dessie Hughes's Caheronaun took the Costa Coffee Dock Handicap Hurdle.