Melon justifies the hype in exciting Leopardstown debut

Willie Mullins’s Let’s Dance has range of festival options after Grade Two success

Ruby Walsh and  Melon clear the last to win The Donohue Marquees Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday.  Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Ruby Walsh and Melon clear the last to win The Donohue Marquees Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

 

Ruby Walsh may have crashed out at the final obstacle in both of Leopardstown’s Grade One Sunday highlights but the champion jockey looks like he can look forward to a potentially exceptional novice talent after Melon’s impressive winning hurdles debut.

 Identifying the best of Willie Mullins’s young talent before they even run has become almost an annual pursuit but all the hype about Melon looked justified as he won the opening maiden hurdle by ten lengths.

 Apart from a dive at the final flight, the 4-9 favourite jumped notably well and is now as low as 4-1 favourite in some lists for the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham.

 Walsh and Mullins later scored a Grade Two victory with Let’s Dance who has a range of festival options herself. But the nature of these things is for excitement to swirl around the unknown and unbeaten and significantly Mullins’s comments will hardly quench such expectations either.

“He’d been showing me this for a long while. He did a gallop in the autumn and I was afraid to do any more with him,” said the champion trainer. “We just waited and waited until he came right and he’s right now at the right time.”

 If Walsh appeared a little more cautious – “talkers tend not to gallop but thankfully he galloped” – perhaps it’s because experience has taught him to appreciate the sort of proven versatility Let’s Dance showed once again when beating her stable companion Kemboy by five lengths.

Mares hurdle

Albert Bartlett

“The mares novice would look the obvious one but that’s only two and a quarter miles. She might be better off running in maybe the Neptune or the Mares, something a bit longer,” he said.

 That’s a range of options to do justice to another Rich Ricci-owned mare, Vroum Vroum Mag, who Mullins said put in a sub-par performance when narrowly scoring at Doncaster on Sunday.

“It was one of her worst performances. She might have had a cough or cold coming on but Paul [Townend] said she was never travelling,” he said. “It was just her bravery that won it for her.”

 Cheltenham’s Champion Bumper will be considered for Debuchet after the Mags Mullins trained grey dominated the finale from the other 13-8 joint-favourite Le Richebourg.

 Elusive Ivy emerged best in an exciting handicap chase finish, edging out the unlucky Powersbomb who had rallied from a serious error at the second last fence.

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