By ten past twelve today, Willie Mullins had another two winners on the board – one in both Limerick and Leopardstown. Both courtesy of horses breaking their maidens who would’ve been expected to have done so before now. One of which was the instigation of a treble for owners Joe and Marie Donnelly.
The black and amber silks were carried to success on a brace of occasions across the water in recent days also – most notably via Shiskin – but in my view, their most impressive victory was that of Ramillies in the concluding contest close to the Dublin Mountains with the grey having been off the track for around a year.
If that victory was visually impressive, then that of Dandy Mag in the day’s second heat was equally so for entirely different reasons. As firstly it represented another precision piece of training by Mullins to ready a tricky but talented steed for a big outing and secondly a performance of pinpoint accurate display of jockeyship from Paul Townend to guide his partner home.
Despite all of the aforementioned Mullins magnificence, the headlines of the day belonged to Henry De Bromhead and Darragh O’Keeffe following their annexation of the day’s feature event, the Savilles Chase.
At this stage, the said race is a recognised trial for Gold Cup prospects, and, in the lead up to this year’s renewal, all the conjecture surrounded De Bromhead’s Minella Indo and Delta Work from the Gordon Elliott yard. Fate, however, doesn’t read the form book.
Which was just as well in this case as both the aforementioned leading fancies came acropper before the plaudits were being administered. That, of course opened the doorway to a big day for somebody else.
Thankfully, for the sake of my credibility as a pundit and my pocket, that happened to be A Plus Tard in the colours of Cheveley Park Stud. The red, white and blue silks of the Thompsons are a familiar sight on the Flat racing scene in Britain and are becoming increasingly so on the jumps scene here too.
If memory serves me correctly, A Plus Tard was their first winner in the Stud colours at the Cheltenham Festival and, though he had a quiet season last term, it was great to see him back on top form and landing a big pot.
The same comment can also be affixed to his excellent young rider Darragh O’Keeffe. The Cork lad had another breakthrough day just before Christmas when driving home the Mick Winters-trained Chatham Street Lad to win the Paddy Power at Cheltenham.
Akin to the victor on this occasion and his jockey, special commendation must also be afforded to runner up Kemboy. The horse who provided Ruby Walsh with his swansong winner has never had much luck on his side but – and the following can also be used in reference to stablemate Melon (third, in the Donnelly silks) – on today’s evidence there should be more big days for him yet.