Cheltenham Festival News

Energumene 3-1 for Champion Chase after Hilly Way win

Sun 5 Dec 2021

Energumene maintained his unbeaten record over jumps with a dominant display in the Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase at Cork.

The seven-year-old enjoyed a faultless novice campaign over fences last term, claiming Grade One wins at Leopardstown and Punchestown either side of missing the Arkle at Cheltenham due to a minor setback.

Energumene was sent off favourite to make a successful reappearance in a Grade Two contest his trainer Willie Mullins has dominated over the years and ultimately did so without much fuss.

Travelling strongly and jumping soundly at the head of affairs under Sean O’Keeffe, the son of Denham Red comfortably drew eight and a half lengths clear of Daly Tiger, with Sizing Pottsie third.

Watch how Energumene made it five from five over fences at Cork

Mullins’ assistant, David Casey, said: “Sean said they went very quick early and he was happy when he went to the front, but the other horse (Notebook) took him on down the back straight and they ended up racing.

“Other than that, he’d have been very impressive and his class told in the straight and he won easily.

“In fairness Notebook is a Grade One horse, has had a run and finished last.

“Energumene was giving away a penalty and he (O’Keeffe) thinks he’ll improve loads.”

Sean O'Keeffe reflects on Energumene's victory

Speaking at Punchestown, Mullins said: “I was very happy with Energumene. He seemed to be in control from what I saw for the last mile.

“He jumped well enough and it was a good performance for his first run of the season. I’m hoping he will improve.

“I don’t know what plans we will have next and it’s the same for all the horses. I’m just trying to get over this weekend first and we’ll see where we are.”

Watch: Willie Mullins on Allaho, Ferny Hollow, Kilcruit, Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi

Concertista strikes on chasing debut

Cheltenham Festival heroine Concertista made a successful transition to fences in the O’Flynn Group Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase at Cork.

A 12-length winner at Prestbury Park in 2020, Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old was strongly fancied to double her Festival tally in last season’s Mares’ Hurdle, but was narrowly denied by Black Tears.

Concertista was a beaten favourite again at the Punchestown Festival, but bounced back to winning ways on her chasing debut and seasonal reappearance under Sean O’Keeffe.

With 10-11 favourite Magic Daze ensuring a strong pace, Mullins’ 13-8 chance jumped well in behind before delivering her challenge in the straight.

Jeremys Flame also arrived on the scene to set up a thrilling climax, with Concertista holding her off by half a length and Magic Daze just over a length further behind in third.

Mullins’ assistant, David Casey, said: “She is not an exuberant jumper and is quick at her fences. Sean was happy enough with her and was confident the whole way that if he kept her jumping together, she’d win.

“I think she’ll improve loads from the run and hopefully will progress through the year. We’ll keep an eye on all those mares’ race for the time being and see what’s there for her.”

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