Carefully Selected gave further evidence of the remarkable training talents of Willie Mullins with a pulsating victory in the Goffs Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park.
While successful in six of his first 10 starts under Rules, the Well Chosen gelding unseated the trainer’s son Patrick as an odds-on favourite for the 2020 National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and was subsequently sidelined for the best part of three years.
But having shaped with some promise on his long-awaited return in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown last month, the 11-year-old was the 9-2 favourite to provide Mullins with a ninth victory in the €100,000 feature at his local track.
Ridden by Paul Townend, previously successful in the Thyestes aboard On His Own in 2014, Carefully Selected charted a wide course for much of the three-mile-one-furlong journey.
After losing his position with a circuit to race, he made ground onto the heels of the leaders before the home turn and landed in front at the second fence from home.
Dunboyne, one of nine runners for Mullins’ great rival Gordon Elliott, emerged as a major threat on the run-in and the pair flashed by the line almost as one – but the judge confirmed Carefully Selected the winner by a short head.
Mullins said: “It is always a great thrill to win the Thyestes, but I think that was Paul Townend’s victory. The ride he gave him – he had two horses behind him with a circuit to race and kept wide out of trouble – puts huge pressure on a jockey but he loves pressure and rides better with pressure.
“He has been off sick the past two days, but to come back and give a ride like that is a tremendous achievement and he rushed off to get a drink just now. It was as fine a ride as I ever saw around here to win a Thyestes with that sort of weight.
“I thought after the third-last that his winning chance had gone but he sat and sat, gave him a breather, got a good jump at the last and I thought it was fantastic riding. He was obviously very sick the last two days so to come back and ride a race like that was huge in my mind.”
Of Carefully Selected, he added: “He gave a huge performance as well.
“He had been off for 33 months before his last run and sometimes a horse can bounce. He was coming back quick enough after his last run, as sometimes a horse can need longer to recover in these longer distance races.
“But Paul had ridden him work the other day and knew what he had under the bonnet. He has come back from a long lay-off and you could look at any of those staying chases now, an Irish National or an English National, but today we will celebrate the Thyestes.”