Mullins joy as Tempo blazes to Plate glory
Blazing Tempo returned to a rapturous reception yesterday after landing a sustained gamble in the Galway Plate for the all-conquering Willie Mullins and Paul Townend partnership.
Backed from a morning price of 10/1 into 5/1 favouritism on-course, the seven-year-old was a debut triumph in the race for both the reigning champion trainer and jockey. Indeed, it was a first winner for the 20-year-old rider since he re-broke his collarbone at the Punchestown Festival in May, after only returning to action on Monday.
Having burst onto the scene with his cool-as-you-like steer on Indian Pace in the Galway Hurdle in 2008, Townend was completing the set of big-race wins at Ballybrit in the thetote.com-sponsored showpiece. As ever, he was brilliantly composed here, producing his mount with a well-timed run to collar Wise Old Owl -- which was representing Indian Pace's handler John Kiely -- inside the distance.
Eventually beaten a length and a quarter, that one fared best of the six JP McManus-owned runners, with a full 11 lengths back to McManus' British-based raider Aigle D'Or in third. Mullins was also responsible for the fourth and fifth home, Hampshire Express and Scotsirish.
Speaking after saddling the first mare to prevail in the €120,400 feature since his late father Paddy scored with Boro Quarter in 1986, a clearly delighted Mullins beamed: "What can I say? The Galway Plate is one of those iconic races that you want to win. I've been second in it a few times and finished second in it as a rider too, so I've certainly tried hard enough to win it over the years. It's great to finally do it."
As for future plans, he added: "I imagine all three of mine could go for the Kerry National at Listowel next. Blazing Tempo might be a Hennessy mare later on in the year, but she doesn't really have to any more now, does she?"
Cork-born Townend, who had taken a fall while schooling at Mullins' Closutton yard in the morning but managed to avoid the last-fence carnage here that saw the retreating Lucky Wish crash out and bring down Matuhi, was equally ecstatic. "It's brilliant to get a kick-start to the season like that after being off injured," he confirmed. "It's just a dream come true to win the Galway Plate."
The ante-post favourite Bahrain Storm unseated Shay Barry five-out, while last year's winner Finger Onthe Pulse plugged home in 10th, having raced keenly early on.
Elsewhere on the card, Dermot Weld continued where he left off on Tuesday by securing the opening maiden hurdle with Galileo's Choice, the first leg of a 13/1 treble for him. Sent off at odds of 4/6, Galileo's Choice had to work hard under Robbie McNamara to repel the renewed challenge of Drumfire, which also finished second in the race to the Weld-trained Universal Truth in 2010.
"I feel sorry for the connections of the second," Weld admitted, "but Galileo's Choice is a nice horse. He went and won his race, and then just tired on the run to the line."