| 7.4°C Dublin

All to play for as relieved Mullins gets on scoreboard just before half-time


Mark Walsh celebrates with a punter after steering Aramax to victory in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty

Mark Walsh celebrates with a punter after steering Aramax to victory in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty

Getty Images

Mark Walsh celebrates with a punter after steering Aramax to victory in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty

Just "like Kerry, getting a score before half-time" is the response when Willie Mullins is congratulated on his first Cheltenham Festival winner of 2020 by well-known racing photographer and Kingdom native Pat Healy.

It was clear to see that the Champion Bumper success of Ferny Hollow (11/1) - the Closutton maestro's 10th triumph in the Grade One - at the end of day two was a weight off his shoulders after a luckless opening salvo.

He vented his frustration at the circumstances which saw Benie Des Dieux defeated on Tuesday and he must have been cursing his misfortune when Chacun Pour Soi was ruled out of the Champion Chase yesterday morning with a minor knock.

Such are the standards by which the Irish champion trainer is judged, any day without a winner is deemed a massive failure and the 63-year-old had several questions going through his head after watching Nicky Henderson and Gordon Elliott thriving during his dry spell.


"We didn't go and pop the champagne or anything last night (Tuesday) so we didn't and we weren't planning it tonight either," he said.

"You just hope that the ball will bounce differently for you the next time but what can you do? If you let that eat you up, it used to worry me but when you have a big team, every day you're wondering when will we have a complete blowout?

"I was wondering at the beginning were our horses not in form, or what, or the horses are maybe just not good enough so that could be the problem too, everyone else is getting better.

"It's only when you come back here to Cheltenham every year that you realise how tough it is, you seem to forget during the year and then you come back here and you realise how hard it is, there's no room for error."

Mullins is hopeful that it marks a "turnaround" in fortunes with another two days to come while it was appropriate that Paul Townend was the man in the saddle having felt the wrath of his boss on Tuesday.

Ruby Walsh was also critical of Townend after Benie Des Dieux's defeat but he was quick to show Townend his delight with the Cork jockey happy to finish "a long two days" on a positive note.

"This year I'm in the hot seat (following Walsh's retirement as stable No 1) and it's been a long two days but when you are riding for a team like Mullins, there is a fair chance one will come in and it has done," he said.

JP McManus was the big winner again on day two as the Limerick owner marvelled over a 1,019/1 four-timer spearheaded by the dramatic RSA Chase victory of Champ (4/1).

It looked like Henry de Bromhead's Minella Indo (3/1) and Mullins' Allaho (5/2 favourite) had the race between them only for Barry Geraghty to make up monstrous ground after the last - having hit 400 on the exchanges - on Henderson's eight-year-old as the front pair tired in front.

Geraghty, who was also on the mark with Dame De Compagnie (5/1 favourite) for Henderson and McManus in the Coral Cup, capitalised on a final-fence blunder form Minella Indo having heeded McManus' advice.

"I knew when I committed to pop the last fence, that the two in front of me had not jumped brilliantly at that fence. On landing on the back of it, I was smelling money again," the delighted County Meath pilot said.

"It's very tacky ground and hard work - JP rang me at eight o'clock this morning and said it might be a little bit better out a bit wider. So I went that way and he was right."

Geraghty and McManus' most fancied mount of the week actually turned out to be a disappointment with an out-of-sorts Defi Du Seuil (2/5 favourite) proving no match for the front-running Politologue (6/1) in the Champion Chase.

Paul Nicholls watched day one from the pub with no Festival runner for the first time in 25 years but the free-wheeling nine-year-old grey made every post a winning one with a flawless display under Harry Skelton in front of 56,943, down just over 2,000 from last year.

Indo Sport