Don Poli wins the Topaz Novice Chase at Leopardstown to boost Mullins’s holiday haul

Win was a fourth Grade 1 in four days for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud

Don Poli completed a Grade 1 double for Willie Mullins on the final day of Leopardstown's Christmas festival to bring the

champion trainer’s top-flight haul over the holiday period to four.

The three-length winner of the Topaz Novice Chase was a fourth Grade 1 in four days at the Dublin track for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud, a vintage Christmas tally for the Ryanair boss, and one which helped resume somewhat normal service for Mullins.

Prior to his Hurricane Fly-Don Poli double, the Christmas action had been generally regarded as distinctly underwhelming for Mullins, who scored at Kempton on St Stephens Day with Faugheen but whose Leopardstown Grade 1 success was confined to Twinlight on Saturday.


After expensive reverses for Vautour and Nichols Canyon among others, doubts were firmly dismissed by Hurricane Fly's victory and events rolled in Mullins's favour too in a Topaz Novice Chase which only finally got a green-light less than an hour before its off-time.

Sub-zero temperatures meant the steeplechase track was only confirmed raceable at about 2.30pm, long after the originally scheduled opener, the Martinstown Handicap Chase, had been switched to after the bumper, winding up starting just before 4pm.

Frost threatened

At one stage there appeared to be real doubt that frost on the chase course would thaw out in time but the eagerly anticipated Grade 1 was eventually run on “soft to heavy” conditions and Don Poli emerged a comprehensive winner.

Bryan Cooper continued his own Christmas streak on the Mullins star who proved three lengths too good for Apache Stronghold and had his trainer predicting him to be a Gold Cup contender for 2016. Before that though comes the job of dividing up Gigginstown's powerful team of staying novice chasers for Cheltenham.

“I think he’ll have no problem staying four miles [National Hunt Chase] and depending on what Gigginstown want to do he will be in the RSA too,” Mullins said. “That was a very good race and he looked very good in it. He’s improving all the time. He’s very relaxed and only does what he has to but he’s getting better. He could be a Gold Cup horse.”

Ultimately landing three of the seven Grade 1 holiday prizes at Leopardstown conformed more to general expectations for the Mullins team.

Weld success

Dermot Weld

also secured a double with his own pair of Cheltenham festival prospects as Windsor Park made it five-in-a-row with a winning jumping debut under

Davy Russell

and Vigil scored to earn another crack at Cheltenham’s champion bumper in March.

Ridden by Finny Maguire, Vigil had a length in hand Bellshill in the bumper and is now likely to try and improve on last season’s fifth.

“It’s a logical route and there should be a good deal of improvement in him,” Weld said. “The boy [Maguire] rides with confidence, style and listens to what he’s told. He’s had two winners and a second for me from three rides and rides with confidence which is why I use him.”

Windsor Park earned 16-1 quotes for the Neptune at Cheltenham after overcoming Royal Caviar who appeared to get first run and Weld added: “This horse has a lot talent, a stayer with speed, but I was worried I hadn’t as much schooling done with him as I normally would.”

Philip Enright enjoyed an armchair Grade 3 spin on Carrigmoorna Rock in the mares hurdle as the Robert Tyner- trained winner beat Keppols Queen by an eased-down five and a half lengths.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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