Klassical Dream and Bellshill gave jockey Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins a Grade 1 double on the second and final day of the 2019 Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on Sunday.
The Andrea and Graham Wylie-owned Bellshill (2/1) won a tight battle with race favourite Road To Respect (5/6f) to claim the Unibet Irish Gold Cup, and in the process gave the winning trainer his 10th success in the event, and Walsh his 207th victory at the highest level.
In a race decimated by non-runners, as only four of the overnight declared 10 took to the line, Walsh lead for most of the 3 mile-contest before the eventual runner-up went into the ascendancy 8 furlongs out. A number of jumping errors didn’t help the Gigginstown House Stud runner-up as Bellshill came on his outside down the home straight, having to fight hard to claim the contest by a short-head.
Earlier on the card, Klassical Dream (9/4f) won a thrilling battle with stable companion Aramon (5/2) to take the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle over 2 miles by a head at the line. Ruby Walsh on the favourite battled Paul Townend who headed the eventual winner inside the final furlong before the French-bred Klassical Dream got up on the rail to give the 39-year-old his 206th winner at Grade 1 level. Vision D’Honneur (3/1) was a further six lengths behind in third place.
Joseph O’Brien added another Grade 1 to the victory of Le Richebourg in the Frank Ward Solicitors Novice Chase on Satuday when Sir Erec (13/8f) was a 6-length winner of the Tatteralls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle over 2 miles. Ridden by Mark Walsh, the JP McManus-owned former high class flat performing son of Camelot lead home a 1-2 for both trainer and owner as he put in a respectable round of hurdling. Taking up the running from the off, the winner was never challenged at any stage of the race and was a comfortable victor over his stable companion Gardens Of Babylon (5/1) in second while Gordon Elliott’s Surin (7/1) was a further half-a-length back in third.
The cross channel contingent won their only race of the weekend when British champion jockey Richard Johnson lead all the way on La Bague Au Roi (10/11f) in the Flogas Novice Steeplechase (Grade 1) for Warren Greatrix. The French-bred 8-year-old, winning her second race at this level, was a length-and-a-quarter better than father and son combination Pat and Jack Doyle’s 33/1 shot Kaiser Black with Hardline (7/2) another four-and-a-quarter lengths in third.
Sassy Diva (100/30f) got favourite backers off to a good start in the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle over 2 miles 2 furlongs when winning for Co. Meath-based trainer Shane Crawley. Ruby Walsh on Cut The Mustard (5/1) looked the big danger in the straight before the Donagh Meyler-ridden daughter of Kalinisi found more to win by two lengths at the line, with Cut The Mustard taking the runner-up spot, half-a-length ahead of Augusta Gold (7/1).
Elsewhere on the high quality card, Dallas Des Pictons (7/2jf) and Jack Kennedy held off the late challenge of Paul Townend on the Willie Mullins-trained Calie Du Mesnil (8/1) by a neck to take the William Fry Handicap Hurdle, with Jimmy Breekie (12/1) back in third.
Whisperinthebreeze (7/1) put up a determined display of front-running to take the Abbey International Leopardstown Handicap Steeplechase for Jessica Harrington and Paddy Kennedy, older brother of Jack. The Kayf Tara gelding had three-and-three-quarter lengths to spare over Livelovelaugh (8/1) and Speaker Connolly (7/1).
The concluding Grade 2 Coolmore N.H. Sires Irish EBF Mares I.N.H. Flat Race went the way of the Finny Maguire-ridden Santa Rossa (3/1) from Bigbadandbeautiful (8/1) and Jeremys Flame (11/2).