Wednesday 22 January 2020

Mullins belies amateur status once again as Sharjah strolls into Champion frameview

Sharjah (left) with Patrick Mullins on board jumps the last alongside Petit Mouchoir and Rachael Blackmore on their way to winning the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Sharjah (left) with Patrick Mullins on board jumps the last alongside Petit Mouchoir and Rachael Blackmore on their way to winning the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Patrick Mullins proved once again that he is amateur in name only when stealing the show in the Grade One Matheson Hurdle aboard Sharjah (9/2) for the second year running.

It has been a magical Christmas period for Ireland's most successful amateur jockey - who has ridden over 600 winners in a glittering career - having already ridden Faugheen to Grade One glory on St Stephen's Day.

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The 30-year-old oozed confidence on the six-year-old - trained by his father Willie - and put the Leopardstown showpiece to bed after the last when seeing off Petit Mouchoir (7/1), ridden by his housemate Rachael Blackmore, by four lengths.

Willie hailed his son's achievements as "extraordinary stuff" after securing Closutton's two Grade Ones over the festive period with Sharjah cut to 14/1 (from 25s) for the Champion Hurdle.

Horrible

Things didn't go to plan whatsoever for stablemate Klassical Dream (10/11 favourite), however, with Paul Townend forced to jog the Supreme winner across the line in last place after a horrible mistake at the fourth hurdle ended any hope of victory and saw him drift massively out to 10/1 for Cheltenham's two-mile showpiece.

Patrick Mullins celebrating victory with his father and trainer Willie and mother Jackie. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Patrick Mullins celebrating victory with his father and trainer Willie and mother Jackie. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

That was typical of an unusual week for Mullins given his lofty standards but the champion trainer still wound up as leading trainer for the meeting with six winners, despite a string of high-profile reversals.

Stormy Ireland (9/10 favourite) was the second part of a double for Mullins when landing the Grade Three Advent Insurance Mares Hurdle in good style under Townend and the 63-year-old was taking an optimistic view on their Christmas displays.

"A nice Christmas, probably not a vintage Christmas but any time you win a couple of Grade Ones and get a few winners is always good. I always say a winner a day is good and any more is well and good. We've had ups and downs this Christmas but we washed our faces," Mullins said.

Patrick expects "more improvement in all the horses come spring time" while the elder Mullins gave a positive bulletin on Gold Cup fancy Kemboy after Saturday's seasonal debut when fourth in the Savills Chase.

"I'm happy the way Kemboy and Bellshill have come out of it so far. I expect both of them to step forward and improve. The Irish Gold Cup (February 2) would look the obvious target at the moment," Mullins said.

Reigning Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo is also primed for his seasonal debut at Tramore tomorrow while Mullins revealed plans for star mare Benie Des Dieux, which may go straight to the Cheltenham Festival.

"She's in good form but just not great enough to run this week. She could go straight to Cheltenham, I don't know. She could go for the Galmoy (Gowran Park, January 23). Last year we went straight to Cheltenham."

Gordon Elliott overtook Mullins in their race to be this season's champion trainer after a sparkling few days and he was the other major winner at the Foxrock track as Battleoverdoyen (4/9 favourite) made it a hat-trick of victories over fences.

Drying ground meant only three went to post and Davy Russell's mount - unchanged at 8/1 for the RSA Chase - was workmanlike when defeating stablemate Champagne Classic (9/4) by a length with the Dublin Racing Festival on his agenda.

"Davy said he only done what he had to. He was having a good blow after so I'd say there's improvement in him as well. He'll be entered in the Flogas (February 2) and we'll see," Elliott said of the Gigginstown gelding.

It was an "unbelievable" few days for the Meath trainer with ten winners having "went home with the tail between my legs the first day" while Gigginstown also made hay.

Michael O'Leary announced that he was "phasing out" his racing operation in May but he looks set to be in the headlines for some time to come with 19 winners over four days in Ireland and a 13/1 Leopardstown treble.

Henry de Bromhead continued his sensational form with Cobbler's Way (9/2) taking the maiden hurdle while Eric Bloodaxe (8/11 favourite) completed the treble to maintain Joseph O'Brien's scintillating bumper form with Tom Hamilton riding three winners from his five festive rides.

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