Walsh and Mullins on the double as Bob takes plaudits
NORMAL service resumed at Navan yesterday for champion trainer Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, who combined to land the two Graded races.
On a four-race card -- after the chases were abandoned due to lingering frost -- the Mullins/Walsh team was quick into stride with Zaidpour taking the opening Grade Two Tara Hurdle in impressive fashion.
However, the success 30 minutes later of Boston Bob in the Grade One Novice Hurdle was even more eye-catching as the 9/4 shot turned over the highly vaunted Mount Benbulben.
The odds-on favourite, trained by Gordon Elliott, tried to make all under Paul Carberry but Mount Benbulben jumped right at many of the obstacles, giving away ground.
Walsh appeared anxious turning into the straight on Boston Bob, but on the run to the final flight the Graham Wylie-owned youngster quickened up in the style of a top-class performer to win by over four lengths.
After the former Howard Johnson-trained inmate was cut to 12/1 from 16/1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, Mullins admitted that the six-year-old is held in high regard.
"We worked him about a month to six weeks ago and couldn't believe what he did for a big, old-fashioned chasing type. We thought if he could reproduce that on the track we would have a racehorse," he said. "He'll be entered in both the longer-distance novice hurdles at Cheltenham and he'd have no trouble with either the two-five (Neptune) or the three-miler (Albert Bartlett)."
Elliott said of Mount Benbulben: "He seems to be fine but he definitely didn't run his race."
As for Zaidpour (1/3 favourite), which recorded a 10-length win over Benash, the champion trainer said the gelding's next run would not be until the new year. "That was a good performance. He is starting to do what I thought he'd do last year," Mullins said.
Elliott did, at least, see odds-on favourite Don Cossack claim the bumper -- but not without a few nervy moments along the way. Just as he had at Cork, the Ronald O'Neill-trained Rory O'Moore set off in front and quickly opened up a long lead, one that soon increased as the rest of the field sat way off the pace.
Rory O'Moore was still a long way in front at the three-furlong pole, and only Nina Carberry on Don Cossack (4/6) was able to give chase. From a furlong out he looked like he might just do it, and in the end got there by just over a length from the gallant runner-up.
"He's a bit special, I was confident the horse would win but not so confident in myself as we hadn't had a winner for a couple of weeks," Elliott stated. "There is a chance, though, that he might not run again this season."
The only other race was the handicap hurdle, which saw Bryan Cooper ride his first winner since returning from over four weeks on the sidelines with a broken wrist as he got the Tony Mullins-trained Battling Boru (16/1) home.