Final Approach strolls home to trigger Mullins treble at Cork
County Hurdle winner Final Approach had little more than a racecourse gallop in yesterday's McCarthy Insurance Group 60th Hurdle to initiate a short-priced treble for Willie Mullins at Cork.
The six-year-old also claimed the valuable MCR Hurdle last season and was far from disgraced when upped in class in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle behind Voler La Vedette last time out.
Sent off the 3/10 favourite, Final Approach never came out of second gear under Ruby Walsh to beat Little Green by two and three-quarter lengths. "He will go for a Graded race next, probably the Tara Hurdle at Navan," Mullins said.
Mullins and Walsh then doubled up with Simenon in the juvenile hurdle. Formerly with Andrew Balding on the level, he had finished only fifth on his hurdling debut at Fairyhouse. The 4/6 favourite knew much more about the job this time and barely came off the bridle to beat Party Rock by a yawning 23 lengths.
"We'll keep him to the minimum trip as he has loads of gears," said Mullins. "Easter time might be perfect for him on better ground."
The Mullins yard completed the 4/1 hat-trick in the closing bumper, which was won in style by Perfect Gentleman. The well-backed 5/4 favourite was always going well under the trainer's son Patrick, and the partnership proved five lengths too good for Finish The Story.
The JP McManus colours were carried to victory by Ballyburke in the McCarthy Insurance Group 60th Maiden Hurdle under David Casey. Philip Rothwell's 11/10 favourite took over from the front-running Offaly Allstar before three out, and galloped on strongly to beat Kildare Blowin.
The closing stages of the mares' beginners' chase was full of drama as Belle Brook appeared to throw away certain victory at the final fence only to get the race in the stewards' room. Backed from 8/1 into 5/1, Belle Brook appeared to have settled the issue when easing six lengths clear of favourite Special Token before the last.
However, the Michael Cullen-trained mare jumped the last very awkwardly and sprawled on landing, with Davy Russell performing heroics to keep the partnership intact.
This left Special Token and Martin Ferris in front on the run-in before Russell got the unfortunate Belle Brook going again to be only denied by a head at the line. A stewards' enquiry was called after the pair came very close on the run-in, with the riders' arms almost intertwined near the line, and the placings were reversed.
Russell went on to complete a 65/1 double when capturing the handicap chase aboard John Joe Walsh's Jack Absolute, while Ocean Bright, trained by Dermot McLoughlin, made all under Conor Maxwell to take the opening mares' handicap hurdle.