Naas wrap: Mares' Hurdle aim for Echoes In Rain

Sun 29 Jan 2023

Echoes In Rain got her season back on track with a runaway victory in the Naas Racecourse Business Club Limestone Lad Hurdle.

The seven-year-old had previously won five times since joining Willie Mullins, including Grade Two and Grade One wins in novice company over hurdles and a lucrative handicap success on the Flat at the Galway Festival last summer.

She was subsequently beaten a neck by Waterville in the Irish Cesarewitch before falling two flights from home on her return to the jumping game in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse last month.

Dropping in trip and class for this two-mile Grade Three, Echoes In Rain was the 5-6 favourite and those who took the cramped odds will have had few concerns as she cruised into contention under a motionless Paul Townend before pulling 10 lengths clear of stablemate Cash Back.

Dual Cheltenham Festival winner Bob Olinger stuck to his guns to finish third after coming under pressure leaving the back straight, but in truth looks a shadow of his former self.

Willie Mullins gives the post-race debrief to Gary O'Brien at Naas

“She did it nicely, probably better than I expected,” Mullins said of the winner.

“We thought we probably had the fastest horse in the race so Paul wasn’t in any rush to get to the front. He was happy enough to let someone else make it.

“She was keen enough as well and probably the few runs on the Flat lit her up a bit. That’s the problem you have when you mix it. With a faster-run race she’ll be all right.

“When you go up a grade, to Grade One, I’m not sure she’s sharp enough at two miles.

“The Mares’ Hurdle (at Cheltenham) is two and a half and maybe that’s where she’ll go. That would be the first port of call, I’d think.”

Paddy Power cut Echoes In Rain to 6-1 from 10-1 for the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle on March 14.

Thedevilscoachman awarded Grade Three prize

Thedevilscoachman is awarded an eventful Grade Three opener at Naas

Thedevilscoachman was awarded victory in the stewards’ room following a dramatic conclusion to the Finlay Ford At Naas Novice Chase.

Five runners went to post for the Grade Three contest, with the Willie Mullins-trained Ramillies the 13-8 favourite to follow up a successful fencing debut at Thurles last month.

Amirite and Rachael Blackmore took the quintet along for much of the three-mile-one-furlong journey, with Ramillies always his nearest pursuer under Paul Townend.

With Cheltenham winner Chemical Energy weakening disappointingly, it turned into a three-way fight, with Amirite and Ramillies joined by Thedevilscoachman and Bryan Cooper halfway up the home straight.

Noel Meade: "The more I looked at it, the more I thought he was entitled to get it"

The drama began after jumping the second fence from the finish, with Noel Meade’s Thedevilscoachman (100-30) seemingly having the door closed on him when going for a gap between the front pair.

Cooper angled his mount wide of his rivals to mount his challenge on the run-in and was was clawing back Ramillies all the way to the line, but the latter held on by a neck.

However, following a subsequent enquiry the stewards reversed the result.

Meade said: “I know I’m biased, but I think it was the right decision.

“What probably made the decision was when Paul jumped the second-last he came over in front of him. You could say why didn’t he go round him, but he never actually had a chance to go round him because once Paul blocked him up he had nowhere to go except to keep going straight.

"I do think the best horse probably finished second," says Bryan Cooper

“Rachael came out and Paul went in (at the last), but I think he was the best horse.”

Considering future plans, the trainer added: “I’ll have to talk to Frank (Berry) and JP (McManus) before I can say where he’s going to go because I don’t know. Frank is away on holidays with the boss.

“I do think wherever he goes he does need soft ground, that’s essential.

“I didn’t put him in the National Hunt Chase, I put him in the Brown Advisory. I think three miles is far enough for him.

“I think Cheltenham mightn’t be soft enough for him, if it was good ground there. We might even be thinking more of a handicap there, that might be an idea.”

Mullins gives full views on his Ramillies being demoted by the stewards at Naas

Prior to the placings being amended, Mullins’ assistant David Casey said: “There was a bit of race-riding at the back of the second-last and I think Paul just held his position.

“He’s a grand horse and stays well. He seems to have put it together better over fences than he did over hurdles.

“He’s in the National Hunt Chase and to me he looks like a horse for that, but the trainer will make the decision.

“He did it well and Paul said he was happy all the way round.”

Bistro serves up a feast for Mullins

Seabank Bistro appears to have earned himself a place on Willie Mullins’ Cheltenham Festival team after making it third time lucky over hurdles.

A winner on his racecourse debut at the County Kildare circuit on this day last year, the six-year-old went on to finish fourth behind esteemed stablemate Facile Vega in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.

He was beaten at odds-on in his first two races over hurdles at Punchestown and Limerick, but made no mistake as a 1-2 shot for the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle – travelling strongly to the lead under Paul Townend and coming home with just under three lengths in hand.

Mullins said: “He’s a big immature horse. He did it nicely, he jumps well and is more of a chaser, I think.

“He’ll go out in trip I’d say, maybe to three miles. He was just gawky when he got to the front, he was just idling.

"He's still far from the finished article," says Paul Townend on Seabank Bistro

“Paul had to get after him to get up the straight, but that’s twice he’s won around Naas and it’s always a good sign when you can win on this track.

“I’d imagine he’ll get entries in Cheltenham in the Albert Bartlett and Ballymore, I’d be thinking more the Albert Bartlett at this stage.”

Seabank Bistro’s win was the middle leg of a treble on the card for Mullins, with Echoes In Rain impressing in the Limestone Lad Hurdle and Western Diego dominating from the front in the bumper.

A £125,000 purchase after winning an Irish point-to-point, Western Diego was ridden by the trainer’s son Patrick on his rules debut and comfortably justified 6-5 favouritism.

Western Diego looks a smart prospect
Western Diego looks a smart prospect

Mullins added: “It’s nice for Steve Parkin (owner) who is more associated with the Flat. He did it well making all his own running which is a hard thing to do around here.

“That books his ticket to go across the water (for the Champion Bumper) if Steve wants to go, which I’m sure he will.

“He stays well, he’s by Westerner. He looks like a nice staying novice for next year.”

Oliver McKiernan’s Aarons Day (3-1 favourite) secured his first win in almost three years in the Buy Your Naas 2023 Membership Now Novice Handicap Chase, with Phillip Enright the winning jockey.

The nine-year-old had been highly tried in novice company over fences and made the most of having his sights lowered with a seven-and-a-half-length verdict on his handicap chase debut.

“We’re delighted and it was a great ride by Phillip,” said McKiernan.

“He was keeping better company than that for a while, maybe too good, but it taught him a bit. I think it told today that it taught him how to race a bit.

“He liked the ground and the track. We were hoping he’d do that but we were hoping before that he’d do different things!

Oliver McKiernan speaks to Gary O'Brien at Naas

“He’s a big moody gent. He’s difficult to handle and can blow a fuse very quickly. He’s big and powerful so it’s not simple. Hopefully he’s developing and getting better now.

“I have no plans really. He’ll probably stay at the likes of that and will stay further in time.”

The father-son team of Charles and Philip Byrnes teamed up to land the Cheltenham Trials Day At Naas February 11th Maiden Hurdle with 9-1 shot Byker.

Byrnes senior said: “He’s a lovely, big horse. He had a nice run in Limerick and came forward from that. We were hopeful today but there was so much word for a few others that we were getting worried.”

When asked if he could get an entry in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham, he added:- “He could but he’d need another run. We won’t rule it out.”

Doyen Ta Win was a 6-1 winner of the Congratulations Naas On Cleanest Town In Ireland In 2021 & 2022 Handicap Hurdle.

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