Following Energumene’s surprise defeat at Cheltenham on Saturday, Willie Mullins and Paul Townend had a day of mixed fortunes at Naas yesterday.
While the pair’s Echoes In Rain got her season back on track with a runaway victory in the featured Limestone Lad Hurdle, initiating a treble for the yard, they also suffered a setback in the opening Grade Three Novice Chase when their 13/8 favourite Ramillies was disqualified after finishing first past the post.
Echoes In Rain had fallen in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse last month but dropping in trip and class for this two-miler, the seven-year-old lived up to her billing as 5/6 favourite as she cruised into contention under Townend before pulling 10 lengths clear of stablemate Cash Back.
Cheltenham Festival winner Bob Olinger stuck to his guns to finish third after coming under pressure leaving the back straight, but in truth looks a shadow of his former self.
“She did it nicely, probably better than I expected,” Mullins said of the winner. “We thought we probably had the fastest horse in the race so Paul wasn’t in any rush to get to the front.
“She was keen enough as well and probably the few runs on the Flat lit her up a bit. That’s the problem you have when you mix it.
“With a faster-run race she’ll be alright. The Mares’ Hurdle (at Cheltenham) is two-and-a-half and maybe that’s where she’ll go.”
The same trainer-jockey pairing recorded a quick-fire brace in the following maiden hurdle when Seabank Bistro justified his 1/2 odds to see off Franciscan Rock comfortably. And in the closing bumper Patrick Mullins steered home 6/5 market leader Western Diego to compete a treble for the Closutton team.
Noel Meade’s Thedevilscoachman (10/3) was the beneficiary of the earlier disqualification of Ramillies in the opener which turned into a three-way fight along with Amirite.
The drama began after jumping the second fence from the finish, with Thedevilscoachman appearing to have the door closed on him when jockey Bryan Cooper went for a gap between the front pair.
Cooper angled his mount wide of his rivals to mount his challenge on the run-in and was was clawing back Ramillies all the way to the line, but the latter held on by a neck.
But in the subsequent enquiry the stewards reversed the result, much to Meade’s delight. “I know I’m biased, but I think it was the right decision,” said the trainer who feels the ground might not be soft enough for his charge at Cheltenham in March.