Mullins clan setting hot gallop for their rivals
Strange to recall now that there was a period of a few days in Listowel when you wondered if Willie Mullins' horses were firing on something less than all cylinders.
The perennial champion trainer's 10 runners during the previous week failed to yield a winner, and then Rattan only barely scraped home on the opening day of the Kerry festival, having been sent off at odds of 4/9.
His next seven representatives, including a couple of favourites, over the following three days all came unstuck in the gruelling conditions, which is about as bad a run as is necessary to signify a crisis in Closutton these days.
Well, normal service soon resumed. Five of his last 11 starters at Listowel scored by a astonishing aggregate of 118 lengths, opening the floodgates to the sort of winning spree that you now tend to associate with the great man as a matter of routine. His next two runners to complete the course both won, the hitherto frustrating Bundle Of Fun left clear somewhat fortuitously at Downpatrick to eventually collect by 31 lengths.
Tasitiocht easily justified favouritism at Navan last week, and then Reine Angevine, Digeanta and Bundle Of Fun, again, did the business at Gowran Park on Friday and Saturday at generous respective odds of 4/1, 6/1 and 7/1.
The season isn't six months old, but Mullins' tally of 61 means that he has already accrued more than three times as many domestic winners as Noel Meade, with his prize money fast heading for the half-million euro mark. Even more awe-inspiring is his win percentage of 33pc, given that none of the following 10 handlers can even boast 20pc.
In light of his annual heroics at the major spring festivals in Cheltenham and Punchestown, racing folk will never take the five-time champion's talents for granted, but the sheer dominance that he displays from one end of the season to the other these days is just remarkable.
Although this is supposedly one of the most competitive racing jurisdictions in the world and we are in the midst of a crippling recession, the Doninga native stands alone in the manner that he can increase the strength of his team to such devastating effect each year.
Annie Power and Back In Focus are the latest exciting additions, while Mullins is in the position that he is without having yet called on any of his established heavyweight performers. It really is an ominous state of affairs for his peers.
Of course, it helps that he has professionals like Ruby Walsh and Paul Townend doing much of the steering, but the success that his son Patrick is synonymously enjoying is equally staggering.
The 22-year-old led the riders' championship until recently, his current tally of 31 -- for an eye-watering 38pc strike-rate -- even more laudable when you realise that is the amount of National Hunt winners that he rode in two of his previous title-winning campaigns.
Mullins' post-war record of 50 winners in 2009 is as many as he has ever ridden during a jumps campaign, yet last term he amassed 37 from October through to the season's end. Just wait until his father starts sending out a few proper bumper horses.
Sizing makes it look easy on Gowran return
Andrew Lynch rode his first winner since returning from injury the previous day when Sizing Europe made light work of the opposition to land the PWC Champion Chase at Gowran Park on Saturday.
The Ashbourne native, off for four months with a broken leg, looked a mite less rusty than his 10-year-old mount, which jumped with the same sort of caution that he has done on many of his seasonal reappearances in recent years.
Having sat close to the early pace, the former champion chaser took up the running en route to the second last, before drawing readily clear of Forpadydeplasterer, Tom Cooper's charge running a fine race to fill the runner-up berth for the 13th time in his career.
"He just likes to get his eye in on his first run but, as it gets on in the season, he really starts to attack them," Henry de Bromhead said of Sizing Europe's fencing, adding that he had yet to decide on where the 11/10 favourite would go next.
First Lieutenant made numerous mistakes before keeping on at one pace to finish fourth, a half-length behind the front-running outsider I Hear A Symphony.
Rathlin going north
for his reappearance
Mouse Morris has revealed that Rathlin, one of last season's leading novice chasers, will have his first start of the campaign in the Grade Two Ladbrokes.com Chase in Down Royal on November 3.
Impressive in landing three on the spin in the New Year, the Gigginstown Stud-owned seven-year-old signed off with a second to Flemenstar in the Powers Gold Cup. "He wasn't far off the best of the last year," Morris said of Rathlin, before revealing that last week's ready Roscommon victor Baily Green could be seen out again soon.
"I was going to let him down, but he's in such great form that I might give him one more race somewhere."
Curragh target next up for Missunited
Mick Winters has confirmed that Missunited will bid for a fifth successive win, and a sixth in seven starts, in the Hacketts Bookmakers Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh on Sunday.
The five-year-old will be trying two miles on the Flat for a first time, but she was a dual bumper winner last term.
"She's in super form and we're looking forward to it," Winters said. "She's exciting -- you can run her over any distance, any ground and it doesn't seem to matter."
260 Years since the first steeplechase took place between Buttevant and Doneraile in Co Cork. An anniversary race, open to the public, will follow the original course as closely as possible to mark the occasion on Saturday at 2.30.
48 The impressive year-on-year percentage increase in attendance at Tipperary yesterday, with 2,523 turning up for 'Super Sunday' on what was a crisp autumn afternoon.
15 Years since Kevin Manning's last winner for Aidan O'Brien -- Johan Cruyff in the 1997 Gallinule Stakes -- prior to the duo's victory at Tipperary .
6 Number of horses that crashed out in an eventful beginners' chase at Gowran Park on Saturday. Paul Carberry avoided the carnage on Noel Meade's Protaras to collect at 14/1, with last year's Galway Hurdle hero Moon Dice exiting at the third on his fencing bow.
@BarryJGeraghty -- Davy Condon is lucky he has a small one, if it was a bit bigger he might have lost it!!!!!
-- Barry Geraghty posts a photo of his colleague icing a sensitive area on the way home in the car after receiving a kick when falling from Ballyadam Brook at Tipperary yesterday.