Getabird flies into Cheltenham picture for Mullins
Getabird was installed as favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham after a hugely impressive performance in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
Willie Mullins had saddled six of the last nine winners of the Grade Two contest, with Mikael D'Haguenet (2009), Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015) all victorious before going on to claim Cheltenham Festival glory later in the season.
The champion trainer saddled three runners in this year's renewal and, having made a big impression on his hurdling debut at the track last month, dual bumper winner Getabird was the even-money favourite to add his name to the illustrious roll of honour. Patrick Mullins kept things simple aboard the market leader, allowing him to stride on at the head of affairs from flag-fall.
Mengli Khan, already a Grade One winner this season in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse, was aiming to get his season back on track after running out at Leopardstown over the festive period.
Gordon Elliott's charge was sent in pursuit from the home turn, but Getabird galloped all the way to the line to seal a most impressive success and his jockey observed afterwards: "That was great. He was quite worked up in the parade ring, which isn't like him, and he jumped off as if he was going to run (away with me).
"But after he jumped the first he kind of backed off a bit and I was actually going a bit slower than I wanted. I wanted to make it a good test as he's a point-to-point winner and Mengli Khan is a Flat horse.
"I was a bit worried when we turned out of the back that we hadn't gone fast enough, but the gears he's shown from the back of the second-last, he didn't have those when I rode him as a bumper horse.
Mullins Snr typically kept his options open after joking: "Patrick getting down to 11st 2lb paid off!
"He jumped fantastic and way better than on his first run. I was a bit worried whether he would be able to jump at the speed they would be going here.
"He jumped out, made his own running, and jumped very well. I'm very happy to have won that race with him.
"All the rain we got was a big help to him, but certainly he seemed to have plenty of pace there."
The trainer added: "I don't know what route we're going to go, but jumping the way he did brings the Supreme into the picture. After his first run, I was a little bit worried, but certainly the way he was there he'd be well able to jump with any novice.
"The speed he showed was very good. He got a nice bunch of horses off the bridle and we're on the way up, I think. I don't know yet if he'll go straight to Cheltenham. We'll see how he comes out of it."
Meanwhile, Nicky Henderson celebrated a four-timer on his wedding day.Henderson was in Scotland on Saturday marrying his partner Sally, so missed a hat-trick for his Seven Barrows yard at Kempton, that was added to by the victory of the promising Mr Whipped in the Leamington Novices' Hurdle at Warwick.
Leading the way for Henderson at the Sunbury track was William Henry in the Lanzarote Hurdle, with the 7/1 chance being a second consecutive big winner on a Saturday for 16-year-old sensation James Bowen, following on from his strike in the Welsh National.
Chef Des Obeaux got the ball rolling for Henderson with a 19-length victory in the novices' hurdle, while Jenkins set himself up for a possible tilt at next month's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury with a five-length victory in the 32Red.com Handicap Hurdle.