Patrick Mullins hoping Cork provides perfect springboard for Energumene yet again

Top two-miler hoping to break run of losses for last year’s Cheltenham championship race winners

The top two-miler Energumene is on track to return to action in Cork on Sunday and potentially put a stop to an unfortunate run of defeats for last season’s Cheltenham festival championship winners.

With the Gold Cup winner A Plus Tard beaten on his first start of the season, and the Stayers’ Hurdle hero Flooring Porter failing to fire on his own seasonal debut, the pattern continued at the weekend when Honeysuckle dramatically lost her unbeaten record at Fairyhouse.

Weather permitting, the last of the big-four championship winners is set to try to break that trend in the Grade Two €100,000 Bar One Hilly Way Chase.

The race proved an ideal kick-start to Energumene’s last campaign which ended with him providing Willie Mullins with a long-awaited first Champion Chase success at Cheltenham.


Mullins’s son and assistant, Patrick, said on Tuesday: “It was obviously a perfect starting point for him last year and hopefully it can be the same again this year.

“We’ve been very happy with him at home and it will be great if he could go down and put in a similar performance in Mallow as he did last year.”

Energumene will face a maximum of half a dozen opponents after Tuesday’s acceptance stage.

They include the Grade One-winning novice Master McShee, who provided one of the most memorable stories of last season for trainer Paddy Corkery.

“I’ve had a good few setbacks with him. I was to go a couple of weeks back but just didn’t make it, so obviously I was going to leave it until he was right and not rush him,” Corkery said on Tuesday.

“He’s working away well now, but the only thing is coming out of my place he’ll probably want the run. I just wouldn’t have the yardstick here to measure him against.

“He’ll have his final bit of work on Thursday and we’ll make the final decision then, but the plan is to be in Cork on Sunday all being well.

“He’s going into open company now and you have a strong line-up again but when you look back on his form, that’s where Master McShee deserves to be. He won a Grade One last season and was second in two Grade Ones.

“Willie Mullins says Galopin Des Champs is a Gold Cup horse and the closest horse to him last year was Master McShee. He’s versatile as regards distance, too, and two miles on soft ground would be lovely if we get that at Cork,” he added.

As expected the Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs is among eight left in Sunday’s Grade One John Durkan Chase at Punchestown on Sunday.

Likely opposition includes last year’s Durkan fourth Fakir D’oudairies, although forecast freezing weather conditions could prove the biggest question mark about racing action even going ahead at the weekend.

Ground conditions at both Punchestown and Cork are currently yielding to soft. Sharp frosts are forecast later this week and the situation is being monitored by officials.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column