Willie Mullins warms up for Irish National with Grade One double

Elliott has three winners at Cork and one at Fairyhouse while Laurina impresses again

Al Boum Photo and David Mullins lead Shattered Love and Jack Kennedy at Fairyhouse. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Al Boum Photo and David Mullins lead Shattered Love and Jack Kennedy at Fairyhouse. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Willie Mullins secured an Easter Sunday Grade One double at Fairyhouse with Al Boum Photo in particular providing a perfect pre-Irish Grand National omen for the champion trainer.

The horse whose Cheltenham fall put Ruby Walsh on the injury sidelines edged out Gordon Elliott’s 13-8 favourite Shattered Love by a length at the end of a dramatic Ryanair Gold Cup in which all nine runners were saddled by Mullins and Elliott.

It was a first success for Mullins in the race formerly known as the Powers Gold Cup and he is desperate too to finally break his duck in Monday’s Boylesports Irish Grand National.

The impact of Ireland’s richest jumps race on the epic struggle between Mullins and Elliott for the trainers championship is potentially critical.

However the financial advantage on Day One of the Easter action looked to be with Mullins who also landed the Irish Stallion Farms Mares Novice Hurdle Final through the 2-11 favourite Laurina.

In response Elliott won the Grade Two novice hurdle at Fairyhouse with the 12-1 outsider, Pallasator, and saddled three other winners at Cork.

Those results still left Elliott with a lead of more then €400,000 on his great rival but it might have been a different story had Shattered Love not fluffed her Ryanair Gold Cup lines at the final fence.

The Michael O’Leary owned mare looked a likely winner but an awkward jump at the last obstacle helped Al Boum Photo power past her on the run-in.

It allowed Mullins’s nephew, David, get the better of another of the country’s top young riders, Jack Kennedy, in a memorable finish.

“It was a fantastic race, well worth it’s Grade One status. David was very good and kept a bit up his sleeve. But I thought the mare was fantastic in defeat,” Mullins said afterwards.

Considering the trainers championship battle with his Co. Meath rival, any mischievous April 1th inspired suggestions about Al Boum Photo being finished for the season were laughed off by Mullins.

"There’s very little finished in our place!” he said. “He’s going to Punchestown - I imagine the stable up the road is the same!”

Laurina impressed again under Paul Townend at Fairyhouse. Photograph: PA
Laurina impressed again under Paul Townend at Fairyhouse. Photograph: PA

Laurina made light of both the testing ground and the quick turnaround from Cheltenham to open her Grade One account.

The 2-11 favourite cruised throughout under Paul Townend and had over eight lengths on the runner up Lackaneen Leader at the line.

Combined with the impression left by her Cheltenham rout it provoked one firm to cut her to 10-1 for next season’s Champion Hurdle.

“She was cantering everywhere and just seems to be a lot better than the rest at the moment,” acknowledged Mullins.

“She could go for a novice at Punchestown. The mares race is an open race which would be tough. I’ll leave it open and I’m not worried about trip. She could go out to three miles easily and has enough ability to do two miles,” he added.

Elliott came within an ace of winning the third €100,000 pot on the card, the Tattersalls Bumper, when Black Tears fought off Mullins’s Yukon Lil only to be pipped on the line by the 10-1 shot, Pat’s Pick.

The newcomer completed a double for Noel Meade who had earlier supplied Bel Ami Sivola in the novice handicap chase.

Meade said: “I really fancied him and told Eddie (O’Leary) we were going to change tactics and hold him up. He wasn’t too impressed about the plan but said to me after the race ‘that’s why you’re the trainer!’”

Local trainer Eddie Cawley has Forever Gold in the National and successfully warmed up with Nobody Home in the novice handicap hurdle.

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