Rising star 'Chacun' begins new era in style for Mullins
Trainer beams as precocious talent could be 'something special' after romping to Grade One success
One icon exited stage left on Wednesday when Ruby Walsh hung up his saddle, but racing may have a new equine superstar in Chacun Pour Soi (3/1) after a scintillating victory in yesterday's Ryanair Novice Chase.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins was left purring after the precocious seven-year-old blitzed a top-class field containing four horses which had scored at the highest level on their previous start.
It was difficult not to draw comparisons with the likes of Douvan and Vautour after the French recruit put JLT winner Defi Du Seuil (9/4 favourite) and Arkle hero Duc Des Genievres (5/2) to the sword with a touch of real class.
Mullins had no hesitation parachuting the son of Policy Maker into Grade One company on just his second Irish start and he justified his faith having coasted home at Naas in March despite being off the track for 1,089 days with a series of "niggles".
"He's really exciting. He looks spectacular, he looks a star. He's blown them away. He's one we've always been excited about and now we've got him on the racetrack twice and everyone has seen what we always thought," Mullins beamed.
"I said to Robbie (Power) beforehand to ride around the outside and avoid any trouble. I said that, 'We think a lot of him and he could be a star. If he's as good as we think he is, God knows what could happen.'
"When you've a JLT winner, an Arkle Chase winner and a Ryanair Novice Chase winner (stablemate Voix Du Reve) in a race, you can't expect that type of performance but I knew he was a very good horse.
"He was cantering and that shows he's something special. The fact that he was able to blow them away was something else. With just his second run under his belt he shouldn't be able to keep up with them."
Mullins' patience and that of owner Rich Ricci - who has had a frustrating season aside from last month's Irish National victory with Burrows Saint - was rewarded and they may have a horse that can throw it down to Champion Chase king Altior.
Chacun Pour Soi - which directly translates as 'each for himself' - is already as low as 5/1 for the two-mile showpiece with Power, an able deputy for the retired Walsh, expecting further improvement to come.
"It was breathtaking at the second-last when I asked him to take off. To be fair to the horse, he was very good and he's going to learn so much from that. He was very green through the race. Willie is a genius - he obviously thought this horse was up to the task and was dead right," he said.
The Closutton maestro took his tally for the week to eight winners with a 37/1 treble as Elfile (9/10 favourite) marked herself out as a mare for the future when landing the Listed Close Brothers Mares Novice Hurdle.
"She looks smart. Once she goes up in trip she'll be better and Paul (Townend) thought the ground was quick enough for her too. She wants a good dig in the ground. She's one to look forward to next year and I'd say she will stay hurdling," Mullins said.
Newly promoted number one jockey Townend steered the five-year-old to a comfortable ten-length success as he started life as Mullins' main man in style with a double as another mare, My Sister Sarah (4/1 favourite), landed a valuable handicap hurdle.
It wasn't all joy for Mullins and Townend, however, as the pair were denied Grade One success in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle with Bapaume (9/4 favourite) only mustering third behind Unowhatimeanharry (16/1).
There was a popular winner as banks specialist and local trainer Peter Maher secured the La Touche Cup, Ireland's longest race at a stamina-sapping 4m2f, with the evergreen 12-year-old Ballyboker Bridge (12/1).
"To win this again means everything," a jubilant Maher said. "There is nothing like the banks races as it requires top courage for riders and horses. A lot of races have been modified but that's the last gladiator stand left."
Jockey Seán Flanagan was a late call-up as intended jockey JJ Slevin was stood down after an earlier fall and Flanagan came about the ride in fortuitous circumstances, although he wasn't complaining.
"I was out the back and I heard them calling for Peter Maher over the intercom to come to the weigh-room and I made a sprint around and caught him going in the front door so I got there before everyone else," the Wexford jockey said.
"Every time you come here to school, Peter is here and you'd be looking at his horses coming down over them and saying, 'Jesus, I'd love to get on one of them' so I took the opportunity with both hands.
"This is his Gold Cup and that's what it's all about, I was delighted to get the opportunity to ride a winner for him because you have Enda Bolger, and Peter Maher's not far behind him training banks horses."
There was also welcome compensation for the connections of Snugsborough Hall (11/4 favourite) in the Pigsback.com Handicap Chase when Denis O'Regan's mount loomed large heading into the straight before scooting home by 11 lengths.
It was a welcome change of fortune for Laois trainer Liam Cusack's charge after his charge was carried out when looking likely to score at Fairyhouse two weeks ago.
"He's learning all the time but the handicapper is not going to be too kind to him. The way he won there you would be thinking of something like a two miles chase at Leopardstown over Christmas," Cusack said.
"I went home a bit deflated after Fairyhouse; it was Easter Sunday and I just got stuck into a big Easter egg! We'll enjoy this win tonight!"
Power landed a 67/1 double having bagged the opening JLT Handicap Hurdle with Jessica Harrington's Polished Steel (16/1), while Mark O'Hare steered Noel Meade's Sixshooter (8/1) home in the concluding Bumper.
That was a welcome success for owners Gigginstown House Stud - who watched back-to-back Grand National Tiger Roll parade yesterday - and were it not for his heroics, it would have been a quiet season for Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary.