Mullins delight as Allaho earns Festival ticket
Allaho appears to have earned himself a place in Willie Mullins' Cheltenham Festival squad after running out a decisive winner of the Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle at Clonmel yesterday.
The five-year-old, which finished only fourth when a hot favourite for his Irish debut in a Leopardstown bumper over the festive period, travelled powerfully for much of the three-mile journey in the hands of Ruby Walsh and cruised into the slipstream of the pace-setting Minella Indo rounding the home turn.
The latter briefly looked set to make a race of it after Mullins' charge flattened the second-last flight, but Allaho was far slicker at the last and stayed on strongly on the run-in to prevail by four lengths.
Paddy Power cut the winner to 12/1 for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, but Mullins is not yet ruling out a run in the shorter Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.
He said: "He is a nice horse, which disappointed me hugely in a bumper at Christmas compared to the work he had been doing at home. The form did work out, though and he was green at Christmas.
"We saw it again today - he was very green about getting going. He had been very free throughout - so to come off a pace like that pulling as hard as he did and pick up, I was very impressed with him."
There was a thrilling conclusion to the Derrygrath Maiden Hurdle, with 9/10 favourite Rakhine State (Davy Russell) beating 25/1 outsider Weihnachts by just a short-head, while Annie Odds was a shock 33/1 winner of the opening Surehaul Race Day Mares Maiden Hurdle.