King Henry completes a week to remember
It was somewhat akin to buying tickets for the senior game only to see it called off and, understandably, many didn't turn up for the minor match at Foxrock yesterday.
With the news on Wednesday of Annie Power's setback, relief prevailed when Faugheen was declared on Friday morning for yesterday's BHP Insurance Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. However, he was declared a non-runner on Saturday and so was a visit to the track for many intended racegoers.
Those who made it to Foxrock - the crowd of 6,443 was down from 7,533 last year - saw Petit Mouchoir prevail in the big race. His trainer Henry de Bromhead, who won the Thyestes on Thursday, had already taken the other Grade One, the Irish Arkle, with Some Plan.
That was remarkable as De Bromhead's Identity Thief went at the first flight, but the trainer won the race anyway. There could be no doubting Petit Mouchoir's victory under David Mullins, yet the bare form hardly excites.
The initial stages were always going to be key. Punters seemed to expect Nichols Canyon to make the pace, as he attracted much of the money and Petit Mouchoir was allowed to go off 9/10. However, Mullins secured the lead pretty seamlessly on the grey and, by the time Nichols Canyon jumped right at the last and hit the floor, he was already beaten.
The chase was left to stablemate Footpad, quietly ridden but having closed markedly. Incredibly, he was backed at 1/3 in running, but never really looked like getting to Petit Mouchoir.
De Bromhead said: "It's hard to do what he's done twice now, bounce out and just go flat out the whole way. Footpad finished a bit closer than he did at Christmas but it's still a really good performance.
"He was taken on a bit earlier this time. Ruby (Walsh) didn't let him out of his sights; they were racing a lot sooner, which made it more open to a horse coming from behind.
"He reminds me of Sizing Europe in that he needs a strong gallop the whole way. He's not a fast horse at home: he's a galloping horse and they just need that good, strong gallop."
Bookmakers' views on the win were mixed: he is 4/1 now in many places for the Stan James Champion Hurdle but Betfair Sportsbook went 13/2.
Some Plan's win followed chaos. Identity Thief - desperately uneasy in the market amid negative racecourse rumour about his wellness - blundered Mullins out of the saddle at the first. Bleu Et Rouge, which jumped horribly at Christmas but won, jumped horribly yesterday and fell. That left the outsider, Royal Caviar, and Some Plan to fight it out among themselves. Royal Caviar led at the last, albeit not by much, when he inexplicably crumpled on meeting the turf.
Davy Russell was thus left alone aboard 100/30 chance Some Plan.
"I'd say he will go for the Racing Post Arkle now at Cheltenham," De Bromhead said. "He fell at the second-last in Cheltenham in November when going well so things have turned around our way today.
"It was disappointing that Identity Thief went at the first. He's generally a brilliant jumper and it was just a silly mistake. Hopefully we will get him back on track in the coming weeks."
Melon (4/9f), the talking horse among Willie Mullins' novices this season, was cut into 5/1 joint-favourite for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle after producing a smooth performance in the opening maiden hurdle - though he too nearly went at the last.
"Apart from that, where he genuflected, he jumped very well for a horse having his first run over hurdles," Mullins said.
"He showed us plenty when we worked him for the first time in the autumn. We had to wait for him to come right and after that performance I'd imagine he'll head for the Supreme."
Walsh felt another run would help before Cheltenham but that is improbable. It was an up-and-down day for the champion jockey, Let's Dance's win in the novice hurdle one of the highs.
The daughter of Poliglote, sire of Don Poli, has thrived since her juvenile days and routed her rivals at odds of 8/11. Where she goes come March remains to be revealed.
"She had experience on her side and was well-treated by the race conditions. She did the job very well and will be on our Festival team," Mullins said.
"The OLBG Mares' Novice hurdle would look an obvious target. However, that race is over an extended two miles and she'll have entries in the longer-distance novice races."
Owner Rich Ricci, meanwhile, said: "I think the Albert Bartlett might be the one for her. Either the Neptune or the Bartlett would be the way I would be thinking."
Mags Mullins has had a month that makes it all worthwhile. She sold Dr Wallace to JP McManus for what must have been a nice sum and she has produced another exciting bumper performer in Debuchet, which made all in the finale under Patrick Mullins.
"He's smart and jumps well," Mullins said of the 13/8 joint-favourite. "I'm charmed with him and Patrick was very good on him."
Seemingly this one is not for sale. "The owners are a great bunch. There are a lot of them in it and they are from Dublin, Mayo - all around. We'll wait and see how he comes out of this before deciding about Cheltenham. We'll think about it."
Katnap, 9/2, prevailed in one handicap chase, while Elusive Ivy (6/1) landed the other.
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