Friday 15 December 2017

Folsom given Festival option

Thomas Kelly

RUBY WALSH made it from London in time to ride The Midnight Club at Clonmel yesterday, but it was a futile journey.

The 11-year-old, sixth in last year's Aintree Grand National, and one of a dozen Willie Mullins entries for this year's race, floundered in the heavy going to finish a disappointing third in the two-mile chase.

"He was never going and the ground was just too heavy," said Walsh of The Midnight Club, which was pushed out to 25/1 from 16s for the National by Paddy Power.

The finish was dominated by Trafford Lad, a Grade One winner in his youth but beset by injury problems since, and the mare Leanne (6/1), which just prevailed after a coming together at the last.

Conor O'Dwyer may be returning to the Cheltenham Festival with a live contender after the effortless victory of Folsom Blue in the Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle.

O'Dwyer is one of an elite list of jockeys to have won the Champion Hurdle -- on Hardy Eustace (twice) -- and and Gold Cup (War Of Attrition).

Folsom Blue, running in the Gigginstown Stud colours War Of Attrition used to carry with such distinction, strolled to a nine-length victory to justify 2/1 favouritism.

"He takes his races well but he's not over-big. If he's going to Cheltenham then he'll go straight there," said O'Dwyer. "He's laid-back but he looks a proper horse."

Mullins brought up his 101st winner for the season when Immediate Response cruised to victory in the Clonmel Festival Week Handicap Hurdle.

The 6/4 favourite, returning after well over two years off the track, never looked under any pressure in the hands of the trainer's son, Patrick.

The Mullins clan then combined to win the hunter chase with Boxer Georg.

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