'Mountain' caps treble for Mullins
WILLIE Mullins was thanking his lucky stars after Blackstairmountain capped a treble-topping day for the Carlow trainer by landing the feature race at Leopardstown.
With a double at the Dublin track and a fortunate winner in the shape of Sir Des Champs at Limerick, Mullins had plenty to be pleased about.
Blackstairmountain looked set for second spot in the Racing Post Novice Chase as David Pipe's British raider Notus De La Tour led over the final fence.
The race lost some of its gloss when Bog Warrior fell at the fourth fence when taking the field along, but the Grade One contest still proved to be a thrilling encounter.
Paul Townend brought Blackstairmountain (9/2) with a determined run to get up in the closing stages to score by two and a quarter lengths. The winner was cut to 12/1 from 16s by William Hill for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival, while Stan James go 16/1 from 25s.
"We are getting our share of luck today with Sir Des Champs winning in Limerick after the leader ran out and with the favourite falling here," said Mullins.
"This fellow (Blackstairmountain) has a lot of gears and Paul was delighted with what he produced after the last. Fences seem to be bringing out the best in him and he will probably come back here for the Arkle before going to Cheltenham in March."
Mullins' other Leopardstown winner came courtesy of 11/10 favourite Midnight Game, which got the better of Joxer by half a length.
Jockey Davy Russell doubled up on the Gordon Elliott-trained His Excellency (8/1) in the United Arab Emirates Embassy Juvenile Hurdle.
Russell got the best out of a reluctant partner, which continually swished his tail, to come home half a length ahead of One Cool Shabra.
Owner JP McManus took the opening Racingpost.com Maiden Hurdle with the Alan Crowe-ridden Touch Back (9/4) from Christy Roche's stable, putting odds-on shot Marasonnien into second.
Roche said: "It's nice to be back with a Leopardstown horse again. I wouldn't be getting carried away with him, but he is probably the best horse I have at the moment."