Sport

Monday 22 January 2018

Willie Mullins' claims early double at Fairyhouse with Thousand Stars and Ivan Grozny

Jockey Paul Townend and Ivan Grozny on their way to victory in the Tayto Hurdle during Irish Grand National Day at Fairyhouse
Jockey Paul Townend and Ivan Grozny on their way to victory in the Tayto Hurdle during Irish Grand National Day at Fairyhouse

Ivan Grozny narrowly held on to the Grade Three Tayto Hurdle at Fairyhouse to provide yet another winner for the all-conquering Willie Mullins stable.

After making a bright start to his juvenile hurdling career, the 5-1 chance had questions to answer after a defeat at Leopardstown and an average run in the Fred Winter Juvenile at Cheltenham.

Paul Townend had a beautiful run up the inside and was clear hitting the final flight but was very nearly caught on the run-in by Kitten Rock, who closed to a head. The 5-2 favourite Clarcam was fourth.

"I think the chiffony (bit) and the hood made a big difference to him. Also the fast ground and they went a faster pace so it was easier to settle him," said Mullins.

"He is starting to look like the horse we thought he was earlier in the season.

"I don't know whether Punchestown will come too soon, we will see how he comes out of this.

"He is not a chaser, whether he goes back to the Flat or not I don't know but he is an out and out hurdler."

Thousand Stars (4-1) has so often been a bit-part player in major events but he had the Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle all to himself.

Again representing Mullins and Townend, the popular grey had not won since landing the French Champion Hurdle almost two years ago but he had finished a respectable third to Whisper at Aintree and his confident pilot did not need to get serious as they coasted away for a resounding success.

British raider Get Me Out Of Here, the 5-4 favourite who took the 2012 renewal, gave vain pursuit, while Mullins' Upsie stayed on for third.

Mullins said: "He must be a iron horse to do what he did!

"He had a very hard race at Aintree, but because of his age and the stage he is at in his career I decided to let him take his chance, and maybe I wouldn't have done it with a young horse.

"With Punchestown being a week later this year, it means the race in France will come a week sooner, so we might skip Punchestown and go for the Prix Barka and then the French Champion.

"I've a list of people who want him when he is retired for a hack, but I might have to jump the queue myself!"

Robbie Power and Cara's Oscar (16-1) won a quickly-changing Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Handicap Hurdle.

Seefood looked like he had set the race up for Prince Rudi, who cruised into the lead entering the straight, but as soon as he moved clear he was picked up by Colm Murphy's eight-year-old, who had been absent since last summer's Galway Festival.

Cara's Oscar eventually finished safely ahead of the 4-1 favourite Sammy Black.

Murphy said: "I'm delighted with that. He always seems to run well fresh. He's had more than his fair share of little problems.

"We'll see how he comes out of this, but he'll probably bypass Punchestown and we'll freshen him up and pick a little target."

Free Expression joined an impressive list of recent winners of the Racing Post Champion Point-to-Point INH Flat Race.

The likes of Simonsig, Last Instalment and Pandorama have claimed this event, designed for horses which have not won a race under Rules, and the Gordon Elliott-trained gelding had made a successful debut in a point at Dromahane in late December.

Ridden confidently by Nina Carberry, the 2-1 favourite repelled the challenge of Clondaw Farmer by a length and a half.

"He's a nice horse," said Elliott.

"He's a big galloper and looks a three-mile chaser. He would want a bit softer ground and will be a nice horse with a summer's grass."

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