Irish racing’s much-hyped new two-day fixture, the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, attracted an attendance of 14,105 on the opening day on Saturday. The meeting which hosts a total of seven Grade 1 races this weekend, with prize-money of €1.5 million, saw Irish champion National Hunt trainer, Willie Mullins, complete a four-timer with wins from Min, Footpad, Patricks Park and Blackbow.
Min (11/8f) set the ball rolling for the Closutton trainer when taking the Grade 2 Coral Dublin Chase, the second race on the opening day card, by an impressive 12 lengths. Under jockey David Mullins, Min travelled well behind the front-running Special Tiara (12/1), winner of last year’s Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but surged ahead of the Henry de Bromhead-trained horse in the run to the line. English challenger Simply Ned (12/1) finished as runner up to Min, occupying the same spot he achieved at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival last December, only for the Nicky Richards horse to get the Grade 1 Paddy Power Chase in the stewards room on that occasion. Winning owner, Rich Ricci, who hasn’t had as much success this season as last, said of the winner:
“It was great, it was relief and he looked better than at Christmas. Everyone tells me he jumped well today. It puts him back on track for Cheltenham, and starts a big weekend here in Dublin for us.”
Footpad provided Mullins with his second winner in the next race, the Grade 1 Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Chase, when winning by five lengths from Petit Mouchoir. The 4/9f made it three wins from as many runs over fences when leading all the way under Cork-born jockey Paul Townend. Mullins’ charge jumped well throughout the race with the last fence being his poorest effort. The winning rider was impressed with his partner’s performance:
“He jumps like a stag, you’d swear he’s jumping fences all his life. It was a great thrill riding him, he was deadly!”
Rachael Blackmore, who rides out at Willie Mullins’ once a week achieved the biggest win of her career so far when partnering Patricks Park (6/1 2f) to success in the Grade B Coral Sandyford Handicap Chase. Despite being headed by the JJ Slevin-ridden Three Starts (25/1) between the final two fences, the Champion Conditional jockey and her mount took the lead after the final fence and ran on to clinch the win.
The high-quality Goff Future Stars I.N.H. Flat Race saw Blackbow (11/4f), under Patrick Mullins, complete his father’s four-timer. The winner, now two from two in bumpers, surged into the lead inside the final furlong to hold on by a length and a half from Joseph O’Brien’s Rhinestone (4/1). The winning trainer immediately nominated the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham for the victor.