Barberstown Castle Novice Chase (Grade 1)
A FINE first season over fences for Blue Lord yielded a second top-level triumph as he edged out Coeur Sublime in a rousing finale to cement his position as one of the best two-mile novice chasers around.
Such is the strength of the Willie Mullins that the champion trainer could still field three credible candidates for victory even though he was forced to rule out the Aintree Grade 1 scorer Gentleman De Mee (scoped wrong).
Foremost among those was Blue Lord who landed the Irish Arkle before finishing third to Edwardstone at Cheltenham and the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned seven-year-old was not found wanting in the heat of battle.
An intriguing finale was in store as a well-packed field turned for home and when Saint Sam got two out all wrong Coeur Sublime seized upon the opportunity to take control and move several lengths clear.
Blue Lord had work to do at this point but Paul Townend had yet to ask for everything and when he called upon his mount for his all the 2/1 chance responded willingly. The seven-year-old steadily wore down Coeur Sublime to force his way to the front in the dying strides. There was a further nine lengths back to the Arkle runner-up Gabynako.
“They quickened a bit about the fourth last and I thought Saint Sam was running a cracker until the second last. I couldn’t believe how much Paul (Townend) pulled out of our fellow, I thought Coeur Sublime had stolen the race between the last two,” declared Mullins.
“Paul said he didn’t want to appear in front too soon because at Leopardstown he looked all over the place and indeed he did that again today. Once he gets to the front, he just thinks the race is over and he loses concentration. Paul timed it perfectly.”
“I thought the horse probably wants two and a half miles next year and most of mine will probably start here in the John Durkan, it’s a good race to start with. He’ll probably mix it between two and two and a half. We’ll give him a shot at going down the Champion Chase route but I think two and a half might be better,” added the trainer.