WILLIE Mullins had his expected good start to Cheltenham 2024 when State Man and Lossiemouth proved themselves to be the outstanding hurdlers we know that they are, while there is no better novice chaser than Gaelic Warrior.

Nine of State Man’s 11 wins have come in Grade 1 hurdle races, and the only regret about this latest success was the absence of Constitution Hill. No one missed him more than Mullins. Nothing can take from State Man’s performance, and anyone who questions his right to be on the Champion Hurdle roll of honour can think again.

State Man now has five ‘champion’ hurdle victories under his belt, and his winnings top £1.1 million.

He is just one of many stars for Doctor Dino (Muhtathir), along with such as seven-time Grade 1 winner Sharjah and Sceau Royal. State Man is the second Grade 1 winner out of Arret Station, a daughter of Johann Quatz (Sadler’s Wells). His half-sister, another Willie Mullins inmate Statuaire (Muhtathir), was victorious in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

The pair were bred by Vincent Barrett’s ML Bloodstock, and he raced their dam, having purchased her for €13,000. Arret Station won a listed hurdle race at Auteuil at three, and added a win over fences at six. Arret Station’s third winner Stop Line (Martaline) was placed in a listed race at Auteuil.

Apart from chasing home her Mullins stablemate Gala Marceau in a Grade 1 juvenile hurdle at Leopardstown, Lossiemouth has had no other between her and the winning post in eight career starts over hurdles. With the manner of her victory in the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle, she might have been the one to present the biggest challenge to State Man in the first day’s feature.

The five-year-old Great Pretender (King’s Theatre) mare has three Grade 1 victories among her seven triumphs, the others being against the boys in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle at Punchestown. Lossiemouth is out of a successful half-sister by Gentlewave (Monsun) to Lord Glitters (Whipper), winner of the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, Group 1 Jebel Hatta and nine other races. She was bred by Scotsman Ian Kellit and Elevage des Vallons.

Earlier this month the joint-breeders sold a new-born full-sister to Lossiemouth and the mare will be covered later this season by the same sire, Great Pretender.

He was a listed winner in France on the flat and over hurdles, but it is no surprise that he has become a leading sire, as he was given every chance in France. His Grade 1 table of high-class winners include Greaneteen, Benie Des Dieux (four Grade 1 wins), Dortmund Park, Great Field, Ptit Zig (two Grade 1 wins in France), and Grand D’Auteuil.

Gaelic Warrior makes amends in style

GAELIC Warrior put in an out-of-sorts performance against Fact To File at the Dublin Racing Festival, but this is the only blip on an otherwise impeccable record over fences, including his impressive demolition of Found A Fifty and Il Etait Temps in the Grade 1 Arkle Novices’ Chase. The highlight of his four hurdle wins was victory in the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

At Christmas, the German-foaled Gaelic Warrior (Maxios) won the Grade 1 Guinness Faugheen Novice Chase at Limerick, and apart from unseating Paul Townend at Leopardstown last month, his only unplaced run in 13 career starts was on his debut. Previously at the Cheltenham Festival he was beaten a short head in the Grade 3 Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle and last year was second in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

His sire moved to Castlehyde Stud in 2020, and has every chance to become a champion jumps sire. He previously sired the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle winner Quilixios, and Aramax who was successful in the Grade 3 Fred Winter Hurdle. Gaelic Warrior was bred by the Niarchos Family, who bred and raced Maxios (Monsun) too. Gaelic Warrior was a private buy at BBAG for €9,000.

Corbetts Cross gives Gamut a big winner

ROAD To Riches and Road To Respect are Grade 1 winners by Gamut (Spectrum), the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner who started his career at Sunnyhill Stud, but since 2014 he has been at Rosshill Stud in Galway.

Winner of the small breeder award at the western region of the ITBA last year, Gerry Murphy at Annagh Hill Stud in Ballinasloe bred another son of Gamut, Corbetts Cross, winner of the Grade 2 National Hunt Chase run in the name of Maureen Mullins. Gerry sent Corbetts Cross to the sales as a foal, but he was unsold at only €1,200. When he next appeared at a sale, having won for Eugene O’Sullivan, he was again unsold, this time at £95,000.

After he moved to Emmet Mullins - partner of Eugene’s daughter Maxine - Corbetts Cross won a Grade 2 hurdle at Naas, while his consistent form over fences tempted J.P. McManus to acquire him from Paul Byrne. This was a wise move and he was 17 lengths clear of Embassy Gardens at the end of the National Hunt Chase. How J.P. loves a Cheltenham victory.

Gerry Murphy bought the dam of Corbetts Cross for €450 as a foal at Goresbridge 17 years ago, and since then two half-brothers to the daughter of Amilynx (Linamix) have won. They and Corbetts Cross are the only track winners in the first three generations of the family.

Lark In The Mornin another for Germany

GAELIC Warrior was bred in Germany, and so too was Joseph O’Brien’s Grade 3 Fred Winter Hurdle winner Lark In The Mornin. The four-year-old son of Soldier Hollow (In The Wings) is lightly raced and is closely related to a National Hunt stallion in Ireland. Sourced by Powerstown Stud at the BBAG Yearling Sale for €28,000, he was a profitable breeze-up sale for 130,000gns.

Bred by Gestüt Hof Ittlingen, Lark In The Mornin is the second foal and winner out of a winning Lando (Acatenango) half-sister to the Group 1 German Derby winner Lucky Speed (Silvano). He also won the Grade 3 American St Leger in record time and is at Michael Hickey’s Sunnyhill Stud.

Slade Steel gets meeting off to perfect start

IRISH roars were loudest when Slade Steel proved best in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. They were loud I’m sure at Peter Hockenhull’s Shade Oak Stud where the winner’s sire Telescope (Galileo) stands.

Telescope won the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot by seven lengths from Hillstar, the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes at York, was runner-up in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and placed in the Group 1 Juddmonte International. Slade Steel is from his second crop.

Slade Steel would not be out of place winning at Royal Ascot. However, he is the first foal of the Dr Fong (Kris S) mare Mariet who won a couple of times over hurdles, and three of her eight winning siblings were successful over the smaller obstacles. Bred by Pollards Stables, Slade Steel is followed by a host of young stock, the most recent of which, a colt foal by Old Persian (Dubawi), sold to Kevin Ross Bloodstock last November at Tattersalls Ireland for €60,000.

Reared at Ballincurrig House Stud, Slade Steel sold as a foal to Gerry Hogan at Goffs for €12,500, and resold at the age of three for €30,000. After winning his only point-to-point at Dawstown for Pierce Power, he sold privately to Robcour. His dam Mariet is a daughter of Medway (Shernazar), and she was a half-sister to a star in Hong Kong and the dam of a Japanese runner of quality.

Medway’s half-brother Indigenous (Marju) won a host of races in Hong Kong that today are Group 1 contests. A champion there, he won 16 races including the then Group 2 International Vase and the Hong Kong Gold Cup twice. He ran second in the Group 1 Japan Cup. His half-sister bred Fenomeno (Stay Gold) who was triumphant twice in the Group 1 Tenno Sho in Japan.

Shantou sires Britain’s only winner

THE only British joy on Tuesday on the training front came by way of Chianti Classico, Kim Bailey’s winner of the Ultima Chase. Owned in partnership for Sir Francis Brooke, the seven-year-old son of Shantou (Alleged) was bred by David O’Connell and has what someone like me would call a true National Hunt pedigree. Sold as a foal for €37,000 at the Goffs December National Hunt Sale to Kevin Ross Bloodstock, Chianti Classico realised £105,000 at the Cheltenham April Sale three years ago as a winning point-to-pointer. He has since won a bumper, three hurdle races and three chases. His dam is an unraced Presenting (Mtoto) granddaughter of Las-Cancellas (Monksfield). That winning mare has many well-known descendants, but her own best runner was Harbour Pilot (Be My Native), winner of the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase and twice placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.