Mullins breaks O'Brien record
Trainer Willie Mullins broke Aidan O'Brien's National Hunt record as an early double at Fairyhouse took his tally to 156 winners for the season. O'Brien set the mark in the 1995/96 season before turning his attentions to dominating the Flat, but Mullins looks set to obliterate the record with nearly three months of the campaign still to go.
Glens Melody stepped up to the mark with a stylish verdict in the ITBA Fillies Scheme Novice Hurdle before Away We Go swooped late and fast in the attheraces.com Exclusive Barry Geraghty Blog Handicap Hurdle to give Mullins a landmark victory.
"The wet summer we had suited us, a lot of our horses are bigger, heavier types and need a good cut in the ground, which we got all summer," said Mullins. "We had a huge amount of winners by the start of October, when we are only usually starting in other years. We usually have a quiet summer and get going when the weather changes.
"We kept going with a lot of horses we would usually throw out to grass, we kept them in as the ground was right and it worked. The horses are in form and hopefully they can stay like that for another couple of weeks."
Paul Townend delivered Away We Go with a perfectly-timed challenge as long-time leader Dazzling Susie faded away after building up a healthy early lead. Townend always looked confident aboard 4/6 favourite Glens Melody in her two-and-a-half-mile heat and she took it up from stablemate Tasitiocht coming down to the last, with only Byerley Babe setting out in pursuit. Stocktons Wing (5/4) had earlier outpointed front-runner Dogora to claim the Grade Two Winning Fair Hurdle. The market had indicated it might turn into a two-horse race and so it proved with Mark Walsh biding his time before launching his challenge on the Charles O'Brien-trained winner.
Walsh switched out to challenge at the top of the straight and while Stocktons Wing took a little time to hit top gear, a fine leap at the last saw him edge in front and Dogora had no answer to that final push. O'Brien is now planning a crack at the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham with his two-and-a-quarter-length winner.
Roi Du Mee made all to land the Bobbyjo Chase as last year's winner Prince De Beauchene and Seabass had to settle for minor honours. That pair, trained by Mullins and Ted Walsh respectively, both feature prominently in the ante-post lists for the Aintree Grand National but had to be satisfied with place money behind the 5/1 winner. Davy Russell executed an excellent front-running ride aboard Roi Du Mee, with Prince De Beauchene travelling on his heels for much of the three-mile-one-furlong trip.
Graham Wylie, owner of Prince De Beauchene, was perfectly satisfied with his horse's performance.
"He ran with the choke out at the start and that's perhaps why he didn't quite get home," he said. "That will take the fizz out of him though and we are happy with that. He's a very good jumper and hopefully he will do the same in the National. He will probably go straight to the National now."