THE reigning Champion Chaser Energumene cemented his position at the top of the two mile chasing division with a thoroughly professional performance on his seasonal reappearance in Sunday’s E100,000 Bar One Racing Hilly Way Chase at Cork.
With the same day’s Punchestown having been called off due to the weather, Midleton native Paul Townend switched to his local track and was rewarded with a positive repeat of last year’s win from the Willie Mullins-trained superstar.
Leading from start to finish, the 1/9 favourite got in tight to a couple of his fences, notably the second last, but Townend was pleased with him overall and Paddy Power were in agreement, cutting his odds for a defence of his Cheltenham crown from evens to 4/5.
The jockey stated “He put down at one or two but, on the whole, I was very happy with him. He’s a year older and is just relaxing in his races.
"He was always a very good horse and he’s the new kid on the block now.”
Mullins, who has a near monopoly on the race, said: “I was just a little worried passing the winning post first time where his eye was caught by something, maybe the horse gate and definitely wasn’t happy with the way he went round the bend.
“Paul thought he was idling in front but he loves his jumping and has a great appetite for it.
"He’s in at Christmas, the Dublin Racing Festival and the race he ran in last year at Ascot but we won’t make any plans until we get him home.
“We’ll let the weather settle and make a decision later on. There are plenty of options for all my horses and it’s all up in the air still.”
The trainer’s French recruit Blood Destiny, who was second in a conditions event at Auteuil in April, made a good impression on his Irish debut when slamming Sir Allen by five lengths in the 3-Y-0 maiden hurdle.
Paul Townend’s mount races for the Roaringwater Syndicate involving the family of the late Archie O’Leary who owned Florida Pearl and he never gave his supporters an anxious moment. Paddy Power trimmed him from 33/1 into 20/1 for the Triumph Hurdle.
Said Mullins “Paul had lots of confidence in him and, when he let him stride on, he jumped those hurdles well – the experience he got in France helped. He’s done that nicely in the juvenile division and will make a chaser in time. Hopefully he’s one who will go forward.
“I’m sure he’s entered for the Graded hurdle at Leopardstown but, whether or not it’s too close to Christmas, we’ll see and might wait. I hope he comes home safe and sound from today and I’m planning to go the Grade 1 route with him.”
The Henry de Bromead/ Rachael Blackmore alliance put recent high profile disappointments behind them to land a quick double via Arctic Bresil in the second race and Hiddenvalley Lake in the Grade 3 stayers novice hurdle.
Arctic Bresil, who made 305,000 guineas at the sales after finishing second in a point-to-point, ran out an impressive winner of the Bar One Racing Maiden Hurdle on his racecourse debut when recovering quickly from a mistake at the penultimate flight to power home five and a half lengths clear of the favourite Mercurey.
Arctic Bresil, who holds an entry in the Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas, was making light of a 400 day absence and his trainer remarked: “He’s a horse who had shown plenty of promise and we liked him a lot, but you always have to do it on the track. He’s from the same cross as Constitution Hill, but we have a long way to go before you can make comparisons.”
Local jockey Michael O’Sullivan is the rising star on the big stage at the moment but stayed closer to home to land a gamble aboard his uncle Eugene O’Sullivan’s Meetingofthewaters in the Bar One Racing Handicap Hurdle. Backed from 14/1 the previous evening into half those odds, the five-year-old was delivered with the rider’s trademark well-timed challenge to come out best in a three-way photo finish by a nose.
Meetingofthewaters races in the colours of the trainer’s wife Allurie and won his point-to-point in Boulta a year ago to the day.
Said O’Sullivan: “I don’t know what went wrong in Clonmel the last day where we fancied him, but he just didn’t handle the conditions. He’s a nice horse going forward.”