Plenty of options for Vroum Vroum Mag after Grade One win

Mullins saddles Leopardstown four-timer to bring holiday haul to 17 winners

The strength in depth Willie Mullins can call on has manifested itself throughout the holiday action.

But perhaps it was no more obvious than after Vroum Vroum Mag resumed winning ways in the Grade One Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown on Wednesday.

Mullins brought his Christmas haul to 17 winners over the last three days after a Leopardstown four-timer and an earlier victory at Limerick.

If Djakadam’s Lexus eclipse was a rare festive setback it is Vroum Vroum Mag’s status within the Closutton team which indicates it is likely to prove very much a temporary blip.


Almost in the same breath as proclaiming Vroum Vroum Mag to be “unique” the champion trainer also consigned her to the role of ‘super-sub’ amongst owner Rich Ricci’s other top-flight options.

“That is the way she will be campaigned,” Mullins stressed before remarking on a level of versatility that really does make Vroum Vroum Mag a singular case which would see her cosseted in a role of undisputed stable star almost anywhere else.

It's what sees her quoted as 2-1 to defend her OLBG Mares Hurdle crown, 5-1 for the World Hurdle after confirming her three-mile stamina on Wednesday, 16-1 for the Champion Hurdle, and even at 25-1 for the Gold Cup. And that's not even mentioning the Ryanair Chase.

“She’s extraordinary in that she works with our Champion Hurdle horses, we know she gets three miles, and she can go over hurdles and fences: at the moment everything’s an option for her,” Mullins said.

That provides ample wriggle room for future running arrangements – depending on the availability of Faugheen and Annie Power – although perhaps a priority in Vroum Vroum Mag's next start, wherever it is, will be that she resumes her usual sleepy ways.

Stable companion

“She did something I’ve never seen her do which is that she pulled too hard. That’s not good if we want to go out longer,” considered Mullins of the 8-15 winner.

“But maybe they would go more of a pace at Cheltenham and Ruby [Walsh] says he’ll be able to switch her off when he wants to.”

Considering one firm make it odds-on that the World Hurdle will ultimately wind up being Vroum Vroum Mag’s Cheltenham option, that “Ruby Factor” could prove significant.

The champion jockey had to get noticeably serious on the run-in for the winner to hold off her stable companion Clondaw Warrior, the Galway Hurdle hero part-owned by Walsh's wife Gillian and ridden on this occasion by his sister, Katie. Clondaw Warrior is now 12-1 for the World Hurdle.

Walsh was also on board Montalbano who made a winning debut over flights in the opening maiden while Patrick Mullins did the honours in the last on the odds-on Carter McKay who looks bound for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March.

Barry Geraghty got the plaudits after guiding the well-backed JP McManus owned runner, Bleu Et Rouge, to a narrow Beginners Chase success over the ex-Mullins trained Gangster.

“That was extraordinary. I thought he had no chance all the way down the back to the second last. He’d schooled well at home but he didn’t bring that to the track. He gave himself a fright at the first and lost his confidence. He must have a huge engine to win,” Mullins said.

Mullins narrowly lost out in the Pertemps Hurdle qualifier when a slow jump at the last didn’t help Isleofhopeandreams’ chances of overhauling the winner, Electric Concorde.

The JP McManus-owned Spider Web was a heavily backed 11-4 favourite for the novice handicap hurdle but it was the owner’s other hope, Thirsty Work, who emerged best at 6-1. Spider Web could manage only fifth.

"The inside track at Punchestown didn't seem to suit him the last day and he never really got into a rhythm," said Thirsty Work's trainer, Jessica Harrington. "He jumped great today after the first couple and it's great to have a winner here for JP."

Leopardstown’s Day Three festival crowd of 16,722 was up almost 300 on the corresponding 2015 figure. Bookmaker turnover jumped to €1,309,814 from €1,184,331. The Tote however was down slightly to €646,945 from €650,319.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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