Elliott’s Noble Endeavor breaks Willie Mullins’ Leopardstown dominance

St Stephen’s day treble followed up by early hat-trick for Mullins and Ruby Walsh

Douvan ridden by Ruby Walsh before winning the Paddy Power Cashcard Chase during day two of the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse. Photograph: PA

Douvan ridden by Ruby Walsh before winning the Paddy Power Cashcard Chase during day two of the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse. Photograph: PA


Douvan never had to come out of second gear to win his 13th race on the bounce in the Paddy Power Cashcard Chase at Leopardstown - completing a hat-trick of early wins for Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins, off the back of their St Stephen’s day treble.

However it was Gordon Elliott who took the feature race as Noble Endeavor justified market support with a clear-cut victory in the Paddy Power Chase.

Once again, Mullins’ superstar Douvan was backed as if defeat was out of the question and that is how it proved, with the 1-8 favourite jumping quickly and accurately in second as Alisier D’Irlande set the pace.

Walsh took closer order to touch down over two out in a share of the lead and then let out an inch of rein for Douvan to coast clear.

He negotiated the last with the minimum of fuss and strolled across the line with eight lengths in hand of Sizing John.

Walsh said: “He’s a very good horse. He settled really well and jumped super.

“Alisier D’Irlande brought us a really good gallop. I cruised up to him over the second-last and he didn’t do a whole pile then. I got a bit close to the last, but horses have to learn how to get themselves out of those situations.

“He just has a huge amount of ability. In time you probably could (step up in trip), but Willie is very conscious of developing these horses’ careers and going the right way about it.

“Douvan is still a very young horse, he has a lot of racing in front of him.”

Asked whether he could see Douvan taking on his Tingle Creek-winning stable companion Un De Sceaux at some stage this season, the jockey added: “I’m sure you probably could. Un De Sceaux I think will probably go to Ascot in January and I’m sure they will take each other on somewhere.”

In the Paddy Power Chase Gordon Elliott took the opportunity to break the Mullins/Walsh stranglehold - as Noble Endeavor saw off the challenge of The Crafty Butcher.

Elliott’s seven-year-old could only manage fourth when favourite for the Troytown but the money came for him again, forcing him down to 6-1 at the off.

The Crafty Butcher was a hot favourite for the all-conquering Mullins team and was one of a handful in with a shout turning in, but Davy Russell conjured a big effort from Noble Endeavor, who stretched clear of the market leader to take the valuable handicap by three and a half lengths.

The Crafty Butcher was second ahead of Oscar Knight in third and Stellar Notion in fourth.

Winning owner Chris Jones said: “I suppose we just felt some day he had to win one of those big ones. I’m just thrilled it is today. It’s fabulous, it’s great.

“Davy is class on those days. We kind of had a Plan A and a Plan B and I think we switched to Plan B but it worked out.”

Russell said: “To be honest I thought I would never win the likes of a Paddy Power because of my weight. All the credit has to go to Gordon, he had him spot on.

“A big handicap like this gives the rest of us a chance to get a good payday!”

It was a significant result for Elliott in his battle with Mullins to be crowned champion trainer.

“We were hitting the crossbar all week but they are running well,” said Elliott.

“That’s brilliant for Chris Jones. He’s been a big supporter of the yard and I’m delighted to be able to repay him with a nice winner like this... I suppose the Irish National now would be the plan.”

Earlier Saturnas claimed Grade One honours in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle, which for trainer Mullins was a fourth win of the day.

Mullins’ charge was second in the Royal Bond but Peace News fell when challenging in that race and was sent off favourite to make amends.

Henry de Bromhead’s charge did not travel with any real fluency, though, whereas Saturnas was always going well in the hands of Paul Townend.

He challenged on the run to the last and while Brelade tried to go with him, the 9-2 chance was a willing partner for Townend and prevailed by two lengths.

Mullins said: “He did it the hard way. We knew there was going to be a good pace. We weren’t afraid to make it, but anyway we weren’t allowed.

“He jumped and galloped and he has lots of stamina. You can depend on his jumping and that’s what keeps him in the race. Stamina then won it for him.

“He’ll probably come back here for the Deloitte.”

Mullins then completed a five-timer courtesy of 9-10 favourite Ballyward in the Paddy Power Games ‘One For The Road’ Flat Race.

Patrick Mullins did the steering after also being on board his father’s Some Neck, who was successful in the opener at Limerick.

Mullins senior said: “He gallops all day. He probably showed us a bit more speed than he shows us at home. He stays all day. We’ll probably go for a winners’ bumper somewhere with him and keep him for novice hurdling next year.

“We’ve had a fantastic two days and fingers crossed we can keep it running.”

When asked if the champion trainers’ title was on his mind, in a battle with Elliott, he said: “You wouldn’t be competitive if it wasn’t. The only thing we can do is keep having winners.

“They are really in form and we have a lot momentum to keep going and try. We’ve got to catch up.”

Walsh completed a four-timer when bringing the Tom Mullins-trained That’s A Wrap for a last-gasp triumph in the Paddy Power ‘You Beauty’ Handicap Hurdle.

Mullins said of the 3-1 favourite: “It was incredible and an extraordinary ride from Ruby.

“I’ve seen horses coming from there before in Leopardstown but when it’s yours you’re doubting it.

“Jumping the last my heart was in my mouth. Ruby is a genius. He nearly left it too late — but he didn’t.”

He added: “He’s a right old horse. He’s a big horse and chasing will be his game. He’s progressive.

“He might come back for the Coral.ie Hurdle. JP will probably have about half the field in it!”

Walsh and Mullins combined in the early race as Meri Devie made the perfect start to her Irish career by seeing off St Leger third Housesofparliament in the opening 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle.

Housesofparliament is perhaps the highest profile of the horses to join Joseph O’Brien from his father Aidan, but Meri Devie was no slouch on the Flat herself and was beaten just over four lengths in the Prix Saint-Alary before being snapped up by Graham Wylie.

She even usurped Housesofparliament at the head of the betting and after leading the chasing pack as Easy Pass established a clear lead, hit the front after landing over two out.

Landsman went with her, with Housesofparliament on their heels, and the market principals had it between them at the last, but Meri Devie (11-8) produced an impressive change of gear for Walsh and crossed the line with five lengths in hand.

Walsh said: “She quickened up well, but she was a mile-and-a-quarter filly on the Flat. She showed a good turn of foot and it was a nice performance. She jumped fine and should improve a bit.

Mullins and Walsh have enjoyed an excellent start to the busy festive period and followed up when Bacardys battled to success in the Maiden Hurdle.

Last season’s smart bumper performer fell on his jumping bow and was being scrubbed along from some way out here, but responded to all of Walsh’s urgings and got the better of stable companion Kolumbus by a length and three-quarters as the 4-6 favourite.

Mullins said: “It was a good run from the two of them. Bacardys twisted a shoe on the way to the track, so we were worried if he would get to run at all.

“My lads had his foot in a bucket of ice all morning here at the track and then the blacksmith switched the shoe.

“He seemed okay, but we were wondering when he went to jump on it would he feel it. I suppose the adrenaline kicked in and he seemed fine.”

Reflecting on Meri Devie, Mullins said: “She was very impressive. On that performance I think she looks a Triumph horse, but she could go for the mares’ novice also.”

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