Sunday 18 February 2018

Willie sheds a tear as son Patrick keeps the focus on Mullins clan

Marcus Armytage

You can keep your Champion and Supreme Hurdles, it was winning the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase with Back In Focus, the fourth of his five winners so far at this year's Festival, which left Willie Mullins a proud father and an emotional wreck.

"Having Patrick [below] ride his first chase winner here means as much as any winner I've ever had at Cheltenham," said the trainer wiping the tears away from his eyes.

That he would be greeting Back In Focus in the winner's enclosure looked an unlikely scenario as they turned in for the conclusion of the Festival's four mile race for amateurs. Tofino Bay and Rival d'Estruval were fighting it out in front, while Back In Focus was apparently booked for third.

However, though the fall of the latter at the second last left Tofino Bay and Nina Carberry with a clear lead, crucially, it denied the horse any company. Having jumped the last with seven lengths in hand Carberry's mount started to wander, not so much tired as lonely.

Oaksey would have known only too well the desperation Carberry was feeling as she tried to rally her mount. Half a century ago this year he and Carrickbeg were famously nabbed on the line in the Grand National by Ayala in similar circumstances. Tofino Bay did rally when Back In Focus passed him, but by then it was too little too late.

"Patrick said the horse just stayed and stayed," said Mullins. "When he jumped the last so well, he reasoned there was a bit left in the tank, so he kept kicking. I didn't think he'd win at any stage until well after the last."

Irish Independent

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