Record 100 for Mullins
ALL-conquering trainer Willie Mullins made more history at Down Royal yesterday when securing his 100th winner of the season in record time.
The Closutton handler's career continues to go from strength to strength and this was another notable milestone as he achieved his fastest-ever century.
The victory was not unexpected, with Soll sent off the 2/5 favourite to go one place better than his chasing debut second at Punchestown on New Year's Eve in the beginners' chase.
Ruby Walsh sent the giant seven-year-old to the front from the outset and he galloped his rivals into submission, holding off Harpsy Cord by four-and-a-half lengths.
"I'm delighted to make 100," said Mullins. "We have such a quality of horse at the minute. We'll keep our fingers crossed that we keep them healthy."
Of the Cheltenham Festival-bound winner, the champion trainer added: "He'll probably go for the four-mile chase at Cheltenham. You saw how green he was passing the post. I doubt he'll run between now and Cheltenham. I would like to get another run into him but it may be too close."
The victory also meant that Walsh cut Davy Russell's lead in the jump jockeys' championship to 14 as the current leader drew a blank.
Russell looked as if he would visit the winner's enclosure in the Sean Graham Bookmakers Maiden Hurdle when he kicked for home in the straight on Beef To The Heels. However, the 5/2 second favourite put in an untidy jump at the last and 33/1 outsider Station Lane capitalised by flying home under Declan Lavery to score by a head.
Afterwards, winning trainer Brian Hamilton paid tribute to Lavery (19). "I've said it before but that wee fellow riding is brilliant. I wasn't expecting her to win but my horses are going well."
There was a sting in the tail for both jockeys as Lavery received a one-day ban for using his whip without giving his mount time to respond and runner-up Russell got a three-day ban for the same offence.
Most impressive winner of the day was Noel Meade's Fickle Fortune which looks bound for greater things after justifying odds-on favouritism under Nina Carberry in the bumper.
Having seen his charge canter to a facile success, Meade didn't hide his opinion of the four-year-old filly.
"She's very, very, very good and I mean very, very, very good," the Navan handler remarked. "She hasn't done that much work but she is very special. Once we keep her temperament right, she is grand.
"She has serious speed, stays and goes on any ground. She might go for the mares' bumper at Aintree."
Conor Maxwell brought Amber Knight with a well-judged ride to beat Mister First in the opening handicap chase for Wexford trainer Darrell Deacon, while the novice handicap hurdle went to Philip Rothwell's Mark Me Up under Declan Bates.
Code Of The West and Jody McGarvey defied top weight in the handicap chase for Christy Roche, while Carlow-based trainer Tom Donohue landed his first winner on the track since 2003 when Followmeuptocarlow and Bryan Cooper took the handicap hurdle.