Fabulous Saga makes hard work of gutsy Limerick win
Willie Mullins has sent the likes of Faugheen and last season's Albert Bartlett winner Penhill to win the Grade Two Guinness Novice Hurdle in recent years and, while this year's winner Fabulous Saga lacks the class of those individuals, he certainly didn't lack courage to add to the champion trainer's tally in the day-four Limerick feature.
Having beaten Burren Life from the front by 70 lengths last time at Cork, the favourite was not allowed to build up such a lead on this occasion.
And when Burren Life headed him at the second-last, Fabulous Saga looked as though he might not even finish in the first two, but he stayed on relentlessly from the last under Danny Mullins to wrest back control of the contest and score by three and three-quarter lengths from Delta Work, which passed his tired stable companion close home.
If ever a horse wanted five miles over hurdles, it's Fabulous Saga and, if it came up a bog in an Albert Bartlett, he would not be without a chance.
The winning rider said: "I knew they weren't going to let me off the way they did at Cork, but you would have to give him credit. He looked well set for second or even third but he put his head down and galloped like a good horse."
He added: "This race has a fair reputation when it comes to Cheltenham. I don't know how good this horse could be but you can't fault him on what he has done so far. He just has a gallop and keeps it up and he's as tough as nails."
It has been a very good week for Mullinahone trainer Ray Hackett, who saw his star mare Crackerdancer make such an impressive start over hurdles two days previously, and followed it up as the well-backed The Ballyboys just lasted home in the 2m3f handicap hurdle in the colours of his father Liam.
Jonathan Burke just managed to get enough leeway in front for the son of Westerner to last home by half a length from the staying-on Silver Planeur.
Hackett Jr commented: "That's a good finish to the Christmas and I'm delighted to win that for the boss!
"We've had to be very patient with that horse. He has disappointed a few times but we thought this race might suit.
"Johnny probably got there too soon but when he did he had to keep the revs up and it just worked out. He just stayed galloping and he'll probably go jumping fences now. He's a great lepper."