Bittersweet day for Mullins as Easy Game wins but Blackbow suffers fatal fall

Suspected heart attack before decisive jump but Janidil emerges unscathed from own fall

Willie Mullins had a bittersweet Grade Two success on the Easter Monday undercard at Fairyhouse when Easy Game ultimately proved an inaptly named winner.

Easy Game was the third string of a Mullins quartet in the Devenish Chase behind the odds on favourite Janidil and the next best in the betting Blackbow.

The latter went to the lead soon after the start but sadly took a fatal fall at the fourth fence, in front of the stands on the first circuit.

It left Janidil in front but three fences later he and jockey Mark Walsh were lucky to escape a spectacular somersault unscathed.

The Mullins outsider Cilaos Emery subsequently led the decimated field to the straight where Easy Game eventually took over to complete back-to-back victories in the race.

“A little fortuitous” said the champion trainer with some understatement who reckoned Blackbow suffered a heart-attack before the fence at which he fell.

Mullins added: “It’s disappointing with Janidil falling and the other fella unfortunately didn’t make it. Unfortunately that’s the ups and downs of the game.

“He is a big loss. I haven’t had a chance to talk to Paul (Townend) yet but I’m not sure if he had a heart attack before the fence as he didn’t get up at all.”

Out of luck in the big race, the Mullins team also picked up the bumper as the evens favourite Hunters Yarn proved too good for the national winning jockey Paddy O’Hanlon on board the runner up Mellificent.

“He’s going to be a really nice prospect going hurdling next season,” Mullins said. “We were going to go hurdling this season but it was a bit late so we decided to try and win a winner’s bumper. He’s won a nice one here.”

Joseph O’Brien’s national hope Early Doors ran on to be fifth in the big race but it was Darasso who struck for the trainer in an earlier Grade Two hurdle.

Drying ground conditions saw JP McManus’s first string The Devilscoachman taken out before the race but Darasso proved a reliable back-up.

“He’s a great horse. He turns up every day and runs his race. That’s all you can ask for. He’s a bit short of Grade One level but all you can ask for is that they do their best. He’s a joy to have around,” O’Brien said.

Monday’s other Grade Two for juvenile hurdlers saw the McManus colours eclipsed as the odds-on favourite Icare Allen could manage only third to Gordon Elliott’s Iberique Du Seuil.

The 12-1 winner looked in a pocket early in the straight but jockey Jack Kennedy reported: “He tends to switch off and keep a bit for himself so it suited me not to get there too early.”

Gordon Elliott later doubled up in a handicap chase as Defi Bleu defied 20-1 odds under Shane Fitzgerald to beat the faovurite Donkey Years.

The father and son team of Conor and Charlie O’Dwyer combined to win a handicap hurdle with the 12-1 shot Capilano Bridge.

Charlie O’Dwyer took a leaf out of the book of his Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle winning father by decisively grabbing the initiative of the race, although quite some way from the finish.

Kicking on from Silver Sheen paid off as none of the rest could get within hailing distance of the pair with Capilano Bridge ultimately holding on by over two lengths.

“I said to Charlie today over two-five not to hang about - he really took me at my word!” O’Dwyer Snr said. “He was second to Capodanno in Punchestown last year over three miles so he stays very well. Once he was travelling that well, and had a nice weight, he did the right thing.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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