Mullins on the mark in Thurles
Racing:Willie Mullins looks to have acquired another talented French import for owners Rich and Susannah Ricci in Unika La Reconce after she made an impressive Irish debut at Thurles.
Ruby Walsh made all the running on the four-year-old in the Gift Horse Gallery Horse & Jockey Hotel Mares Maiden Hurdle and victory was never in doubt.
The 8 to 11 favourite sealed success with a fine jump at the last and had 12 lengths to spare over Speckled Wood.
“She’s a mare that’ll probably be better over fences. She doesn’t really have respect for those hurdles but she’ll go down the mares’ novice hurdle route now,” said Mullins.
“She’s a fine big mare and she’ll carry weight over a fence. She might come back here in March for that novice hurdle that comes up before Cheltenham. The Grade One mares’ novice hurdle at Fairyhouse would be a possibility as well.”
Mullins also saddled Midnight Game (4 to 7) to land the feature race on the card, the Horse and Jockey Hotel Hurdle, for owners the Gigginstown House Stud.
Champion jockey Davy Russell was content to let Arnaud, carrying the owner’s second colours, do the donkey work before taking the lead after the third-last flight. However, Joxer put up a gallant fight and only went down by one length.
“He’s holding his improvement and we’ll try to go up the ladder slowly with him. If we could find another few like this I’d be very happy,” said Mullins. “He has come to himself this season.”
Russell was completing a double having earlier struck on the Colin Bowe-trained Whiskey And Red, who followed up a recent course win in the Molony Cup Handicap Chase.
The 6 to 4 favourite jumped ahead of Robertstown Rover at the last and kept on to score by a length and three-quarters, the pair pulling 26 lengths clear of the field.
“He’s in at Down Royal on Wednesday and he’ll run there if he’s okay,” said Bowe. He jumps very well and he’s a good tough genuine horse.”
Terence O’Brien’s Captain Canada (6 to 1) was nine and a half lengths too good for Gigginstown’s War Correspondent in the INH Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle under Paul Townend.
Missie Ella was always up in the front rank as she sprang a 25 to 1 surprise in the Exit 6 to The Horse & Jockey Novice Handicap Hurdle for Denis Hogan, who trains and rode the filly.
Claimer David Splaine got the Jimmy Mangan-trained Noras Fancy (7 to 2 joint-favourite) home first after a tussle with Colls Corner in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Chase.
Patrick Mullins still needs one to break the long-standing record for number of winners by an amateur jockey in a calendar year in Ireland after finishing only fifth on Goldboy in the Curaheen (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race behind the Robert Tyner-trained Byerley Babe (2-1).
Mullins remains on 72, the same as Billy Parkinson way back in 1915.