Briar Hill an impressive winner at Navan

Willie Mullins now targetting Slaney Hurdle at Naas in January

Tony McCoy falls from Colbert Station during the Tara Handicap Hurdle at Navan today. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Tony McCoy falls from Colbert Station during the Tara Handicap Hurdle at Navan today. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

 

Briar Hill easily shrugged aside his solitary rival Azorian to land the Navan Novice Hurdle at the Co Meath track.

The Grade One feature had been reduced to a match after the late defection of the Noel Meade-trained pair Apache Stronghold and Very Wood, but the winner could be very good.

Bearing the perils of a tactical race in mind, Ruby Walsh decided to make the pace on the Andrea and Graham Wylie-owned five-year-old and despite having to do the donkey work, Briar Hill’s class shone through.

Azorian tried to put it to the Cheltenham Champion Bumper scorer, who had made a winning debut over hurdles at Wexford four weeks earlier.

However, the 1-4 shot found more when challenged and pulled away between the last two flights to win in pleasing fashion by four and three-quarter lengths and be part of a treble for trainer Willie Mullins.

“It was a tactical race and we weren’t sure if Azorian would jump off in front or drop in. Our fellow proved in Wexford that he was able to jump in front,” said Mullins.

“He’s a lovely relaxed individual and he stays. He could go out to three miles if we want. I’d imagine we’ll be looking at two-and-a-half miles or longer. He seems to have loads of stamina.

“Christmas might come a bit too soon and we could possibly look at the Slaney Hurdle at Naas in January.

“He’s closely related to Boston Bob. Last year he showed nothing at home but this year he’s showing at home what he’s doing on the track.”

Walsh was happy with the performance, telling At The Races: “He only does the bare minimum and I suppose that’s a good thing.

“I thought I was riding the best horse so I tried to keep it as simple as I could.

“The way he races you probably wouldn’t back in trip but he’s not slow. I suppose we’ll leave every option open. I’ll leave it up to Willie. He’ll find the races for him.”

Mullins had earlier struck with Sizing Tennessee as the 9-4 favourite made a winning debut over obstacles in the Irish Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle.

The five-year-old pulled three and three-quarter lengths clear of market rival Rock The World to score cosily under Andrew Lynch.

“I couldn’t get him fit and I feel he’ll improve quite a bit. He came in very strong from grass,” said Mullins.

“He’s a natural jumper being by Robin Des Champs. He disappointed at Cheltenham last year (in the Champion Bumper) but he might be back on track now.

“He’s starting to show what he shows me in his homework. He’s a horse that could easily go out in trip.”

Mullins’s three-timer was sealed in the Grade Two ‘Future Champions’ INH Flat Race by Royal Caviar, ridden by his son Patrick, though the 1-4 shot had to survive a stewards’ inquiry after his hard-fought success over Fine Rightly.

Eventually Patrick Mullins was handed a five-day ban for careless riding.

Lynch completed a double in the Alan and Ann Potts colours when partnering Sizing Gold to victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase.

The 9-10 chance, trained by Henry De Bromhead, made a promising debut over fences as he accounted for Mullaghanoe River by four lengths.

“I’ve always liked him. His form is good when you look at the horses he has beat and the horses that beat him,” said De Bromhead.

“He was a bit disappointing at Fairyhouse so we backed off him. He’s such a big horse and probably had enough racing last year.

“He’ll maybe have one more run after Christmas and then we’ll look at the spring. There is a three-mile race in Naas and a two-mile-five in Leopardstown in January.

“He was deadly there and this is his game. I couldn’t have been anymore pleased with him.”

Jarlath Fahey’s Jennies Jewel (10-1) kept He’llberemembered at bay by half a length to take the Tara Handicap Hurdle in the hands of 3lb claimer Ian McCarthy.

Britain’s 18-times champion jockey Tony McCoy was out of luck as he took a fall at the fourth flight from the 100-30 favourite Colbert Station.

Arthur Moore’s Hop In (7-2 favourite), ridden by David Casey, ended a frustrating run of four seconds to open his account in the Beauparc Handicap Hurdle.

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