Freakish talent Yorkhill throws away Easter Sunday feature
Mullins still narrows trainers’ championship gap with Grade One 1-2 at Fairyhouse
Bryan Cooper on Road to Respect pulls ahead of Ruby Walsh on Yorkhill to win the Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Steeplechase at Fairyhouse. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
In the process of losing Easter Sunday’s Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse Yorkhill also indicated talent freakish enough to surely keep Willie Mullins dreaming of finally securing that elusive Cheltenham Gold Cup success next year.
Rarely if ever can any winner, never mind a Grade One winner, been so overshadowed by the runner-up as Road To Respect was after his neck defeat of the 4-7 favourite who put up an astonishing performance.
The dual-Cheltenham festival winner has often jumped to his left but never so badly. Over the race’s 16 fences he lost countless lengths.
Yet despite also giving Ruby Walsh a torrid time by racing keenly throughout, Yorkhill still looked in control coming to the last only to momentarily appear to try and run out through the wing.
Walsh somehow got him to scramble over and even after all but throwing the race away Yorkhill was still closing on Road To Respect all the way to the line.
outrageous talent often comes with quirks but Yorkhill is clearly a maddening assortment of psychological oddities.
Mullins and Walsh were left scratching their heads on Sunday but the prospect of trying to direct that outrageous talent towards Gold Cup success will fascinate them.
“He’s obviously a huge talent to do that,” said Mullins. “It’s disappointing because I thought he was getting better not worse. I certainly didn’t think he would be as bad as that.”
Any ideas of going right-handed again in something like the King George next season are clearly on the back-burner now. But Yorkhill remains a 6-1 shot for the Gold Cup which crucially is left-handed.
Road To Respect’s trainer Noel Meade, who later also won the valuable Sales Bumper with Red Jack, only added to the Yorkhill enigma when adding: “I think mine is a proper Grade One horse anyway. But the other fellah is probably exceptional.”
Walsh’s tortuous spin sealed a testing Grade One day for the champion jockey who’d earlier been beaten on the odds-on Let’s Dance by her stable companion Augusta Kate in the mares’ novice hurdle final.
Rider arrangements indicated Augusta Kate was No. 3 of the four Mullins runners but she overcame a final flight blunder to rally past Let’s Dance by a neck.
Mullins secured €86,000 from that one race and, even though Yorkhill’s defeat was a blow, the reigning champion emerged from Day One of the Easter festival having narrowed the gap to Gordon Elliott in the trainer’s championship.
Bookmakers reacted by cutting Mullins to 7-4 for the title which will be decided at Punchestown. Elliott, who scored with Fridaynightlights, remains odds-on.