Bally sparkles on Mullins' big day
Ballycasey swept the opposition aside with a slick display of jumping from the front to take the feature Race That Stops A County 'Thyestes Jan 22nd 2015' Chase at Gowran Park.
Representing the all-conquering Willie Mullins team just minutes after the victory of Faugheen in the same colours at Ascot, the seven-year-old was completing a Gowran treble for the Closutton yard, which later became a four-timer.
Paul Townend set off in the lead on the 4-6 favourite, a Grade One winner in novice company last season, and the grey jumped much better than market rival Moscow Mannon all the way round.
He eased clear going to the final fence and after a splendid leap, ran on strongly to see off Followmeuptocarlow by five and a half lengths, with Moscow Mannon plugging on for a disappointing third.
Mullins had already won with Tell Us More and Douvan, and he went on to his four-timer with Don Poli.
The trainer said of Ballycasey: "That's a trip (two and a half miles) he enjoys and he jumped great. We'll probably look for a Grade Two or Three around that trip rather than go for a Grade One at this stage. It may appear that was easy, but he had a hard enough race on that ground (heavy)."
Mullins introduced impressive bumper scorer Tell Us More to obstacles in the www.gowranpark.ie Maiden Hurdle and the market suggested defeat was out of the question for the Gigginstown challenger, who was sent off a 1-5 chance.
Bryan Cooper set off in front and had the opposition in trouble jumping the third-last, after which the imposing five-year-old stretched 11 lengths clear without coming off the bridle.
The trainer said: "He got things his own way a bit but he's probably good enough to do that anyway. He's a natural jumper and he'll have no trouble going up in trip. I'd say he'll improve a fair bit off that as I thought beforehand he looked a bit big. That all bodes well for the future. We'll find something for him around Christmas and he looks top drawer."
Cooper added: " He's as nice a young horse as I sat on in a while. He came with a high reputation and if you were to look at him in the parade ring he still looked pretty big, so hopefully there's plenty more improvement to come. I had any amount of horse pulling up. Hopefully we have something exciting to look forward to now."
Next up for the Closutton maestro was French import Douvan (8-15 favourite), who put in a slick round on his Irish debut to win the Santa Train At Gowran Park Novice Hurdle with considerable ease, readily going clear to score by 12 lengths under Townend.
The trainer said: "He's a nice big horse and he'll be a chaser down the line. He could be anything and he'll have no trouble going out in trip."
Townend added: " He was showing us plenty at home and it's nice for him to show it at the racecourse. He obviously had plenty of schooling done in France and he's a natural. He's a lovely horse - a fine big horse with a big stride on him. We think he could be very good. Hopefully he can go right to the top. This lad is very exciting, we think he's the real deal."
The quartet was completed by the Cooper-ridden Don Poli (11-10 favourite), who led over the last four obstacles on his fencing debut in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase before holding fellow Gigginstown runner Wounded Warrior by two and a half lengths.
Mullins said: "I think that's his game - he should make a good staying chaser. He appears to idle all the time and I hope there's lots left in the locker when you go for him. It's early days, but he seems made for the four-mile race at Cheltenham. He gallops and he stays."