Team Mullins reign supreme
Willie Mullins confirmed his status as the new 'King of Ballybrit' with his son Patrick the Prince, as Galway Hurdle success for Sharjah (12/1) spearheaded a 295.5/1 treble for the Closutton maestro.
Becoming the first amateur jockey to prevail in the €300,000 spectacle - Ireland's most lucrative hurdle race - since Philip Fenton in 1991, the younger Mullins steered the Rich Ricci-owned top-weight to an unlikely success for his father's third win in the Festival showpiece.
Unlucky to crash out when having the Grade One Future Champions Novice Hurdle at his mercy at Leopardstown in December, substantial compensation awaited for Sharjah, which pipped stablemate Blazer (12/1) to lead home a Mullins 1-2.
The champion trainer paid high compliment to the "extraordinary" achievement of Patrick, a 10-time champion amateur, in his battle against the scales - he runs the track before racing every time he saddles up - describing him to be "in a different league to me" as a jockey.
"I took my eyes off him (Sharjah) when I thought he was beaten half way up the back and I didn't realise Patrick was going so well until the last. It's a little bit of compensation for missing the Grade One at Christmas when he fell at the last in front," champion trainer Mullins said.
"I don't know if it's compensation for not winning the amateur race on Monday, but he'll have to put up with it. My plan was to go Flat racing with him for the summer, but I wasn't happy with his handicap mark so that has worked out well.
"For his size and his weight, Patrick has huge commitment to be able to do what he is doing. Every morning he wakes up he is probably 11-7 or 11-8. That's why he's minding himself if he goes away for a weekend or a holiday so he doesn't come back heavier.
"He's just got huge commitment, I wouldn't live off what he does. It's great to have such role models as Ruby Walsh and Tony McCoy and see the commitment that they have given, it shows the importance of having these guys to look up to and the sport is much better for it."
After chasing Gordon Elliott for the guts of last season, Mullins has hit the ground running and notched his quickest half century earlier this week and is already on eight winners at Ballybrit after just four days.
The 61-year-old is leaving nothing to chance as he chases his 13th title and the David Mullins-ridden Calie Du Mesnil (8/1) led home a 1-2-3 for Mullins in the Guinness Novice Hurdle to further highlight his dominance.
"As the ground gets softer, she's going to enjoy that and I think she's a winter filly. How good she is I don't know. I'm not sure she's in Pakora's league (a winner here on Tuesday) but she's a good solid filly," Mullins said.
From one of the biggest trainers to one of the smallest. Colin Kidd has just four horses in his care, but the Carlow trainer got his day in the spotlight with Rashaan (6/1) a last-gasp winner of the Grade 3 Open Gate Brewery Novice Chase.
Striking a blow for all smaller operations, Kidd stood addressing the assembled media in a drenched blue shirt without a care in the world as the rain poured down on him after Davy Russell prevailed on the teak-tough six-year-old.
“I told him not to be in front too long but he had my heart in my mouth,” Kidd said. “Only for Rashaan, I wouldn’t have had any other runner in Galway and it’s the first time Davy sat on him.
“He just got on so well with him and he’s a horse that never knows when to give in. That’s 12 wins now, that’s his first over fences. To have a horse like him is something you couldn’t dream of. Only for him I don’t know where I’d be.”
It’s been a dismal week for Dermot Weld, 31-time champion trainer at Ballybrit, but Yulong Gold Fairy (13/8 favourite) gave him something to smile about when taking the Listed Fillies Stakes under Shane Foley.
Riding his first winner for Weld, having taken up the role of retained jockey for owner Zhang Yuesheng in Pat Smullen’s absence, Foley steered the three-year-old home by a neck to get the Master of Rosewell House off the mark for the week.
A spectacular few days for owner Annette Mee got even better yesterday with a 13/1 double leaving her on five winners after four days’ racing and clear leader in the race to be champion owner at Ballybrit.
Minella Beau (well-backed from 5/2 into 6/4 favourite) got things off to a flyer for her in the Guinness Beginners Chase with Ruby Walsh lifting Mullins’ seven-year-old home in the final furlong to score.
The second leg was completed when ‘Shark’ Hanlon’s Camlann (9/2) helped to complete a 35/1 brace for jockey Billy Lee to land the Open Gate Pure Brew Handicap, much to his trainer’s delight.
“He ran a cracker here on the Flat last year off the same mark and we kind of just minded it for the year. You’ll probably see him again on Saturday in the Flat race again, he likes it around here,” Hanlon said.
Lee had earlier steered the grey Honor Oak (11/2), second here on Tuesday, to a comfortable pillar-to-post success with trainer Tom Hogan relieved to make the winners’ enclosure given that “the material I have to work with these days is a bit skimpy”.
The Limerick jockey added: “I’d say Tom was cursing me the whole way around, but when I jumped off that well I took the bull by the horns and I couldn’t believe how far I was in front. It worked out well.”
A miserable day weather-wise resulted in a drop in Ladies’ Day attendance of 3,865 (30,294 in 2017 to 26,429 this year) with Tote turnover (down from €1,138,076 to €1,060,501) exceeding bookmaker turnover (down significantly from €1,481,528 to €1,043,055).