Monday 17 December 2018

Red-hot Mullins gets sweet tune out of Nessun Dorma

Mullins:
Mullins: "To win a Punchestown Champion Hurdle and an Irish St Leger and be down to Australia for the Melbourne Cup, he is extraordinary and hardy." Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Another day at the Galway Festival, and it was yet another big-race winner for Willie Mullins as Nessun Dorma (14/1) sprung a surprise under an enterprising ride from Billy Lee in the Guinness Premier Handicap.

Four of the five feature races at Ballybrit this week have gone the way of the Closutton maestro - all at double-figure odds - and this followed a similar pattern as red-hot favourite Limini (Evens) could only finish third behind her less-heralded stablemate.

Lee, riding his third winner at Galway this week, made nearly every post a winning one in what Mullins described as "a super ride" and his 10th visit to the Ballybrit winners' enclosure followed soon after through the evergreen Wicklow Brave.

Champion trainer and champion jockey combined as the 2016 Group One Irish St Leger winner justified prohibitive odds of 1/6 in the Rockshore Race under Colin Keane, who now also has a trio of wins on the board.

"He's an extraordinary horse and we bought him as a bumper horse and he only cost 35 or €40,000. To win a Punchestown Champion Hurdle and an Irish St Leger and be down to Australia for the Melbourne Cup, he is extraordinary and hardy," a delighted Mullins said.

"His owner is keen to go jumping with him and be the first horse to win a Group One on the Flat, and a Grade One over hurdles and fences, so the Drinmore Chase could be an option. He jumps fences very well but we'll keep him to the Flat and over hurdles for now."

Another person dreaming of bigger things is Dermot Weld, who bounced back from a dismal week at his favourite Festival to fire a 7/2 double and has much to look forward to for the future with Guinness Irish EBF Fillies Maiden winner Lure Of The Sea.

Heavily supported into 8/11, the daughter of Sea The Stars never gave favourite backers a second’s worry under Declan McDonogh to leave the master of Rosewell House with one eye on the future.

“She’s got the ability to progress and be a Stakes filly. She’s a lovely big mare with a good attitude -  she’s got a future,” Weld said.

“She’s 500 kilos, 16.2 hands – we’ve given her lots of time and patience pays dividends and I think it’ll come with this one. On better ground you’ll see a better filly. She’ll progress a lot with the run, there’s lots more to come.”

Weld and McDonogh recorded the first leg when the well-backed Zuenoon (13/8 favourite) claimed the James’s Gate Irish EBF Median Auction Maiden by a half length from Joseph O’Brien’s Cosmic Horizon (12/1), owned by Irish rugby boss Joe Schmidt.

Laois handler Liam Cusack also got off the mark for the week when Snugsborough Benny (5/1 joint-favourite) made amends for a close call at Limerick last month to take the Blazers Handicap Chase.

Denis O’Regan received some criticism for his waiting ride on that occasion, but the Cork pilot made no mistake this time around as the eight-year-old battled gamely up the hill under pressure to see off Henry de Bromhead’s A Rated (8/1) by a length.

It has probably been a frustrating week for Tom Mullins as he watched his brother Willie lead a host of winners for the family while nephew Emmet also notched a brace, but he got in on the act himself as Top Othe Ra (9/2) showed his penchant for Galway once again to hold off Steve Mahon’s Stormey (16/1) by a neck in a thrilling finale.

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