Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)
A SIMPLY flawless season which has yielded one improved performance after another ended in perfect fashion for The Nice Guy who cemented his status as the star staying novice hurdler with another defeat of stablemate Minella Cocooner.
After going from a Naas maiden hurdle success to Albert Bartlett glory at Cheltenham, the Willie Mullins-trained The Nice Guy lined up here as a horse of still untapped potential after just four outings over hurdles. The presence of the second and third in the Albert Bartlett along with several other Grade 1 performers meant that the seven-year-old son of Presenting faced another stern test of his mettle.
Furthermore, Albert Bartlett winners don’t have the strongest of records in this race but just as he has done all season The Nice Guy answered every question asked of him and more to remain one of the most exciting prospects under the care of his trainer.
In a very short space of time this son of Fame And Glory has achieved a great deal and what makes his efforts all the more remarkable is that his racecourse efforts stand in direct contrast to what he shows at home in the morning.
Throughout the race Paul Townend looked very comfortable on the winner and nothing was going as well as The Nice Guy who swung for home travelling very smoothly on the outside of the field. He was soon showing in front of Minella Cocooner and, while that one rallied well after the last, the idling 15/8 favourite remained in charge to prevail by three-parts of a length and make it a perfect five from five for the season.
“He has totally surprised us as he wouldn’t win any sort of race on what he shows on the gallops at home,” observed Mullins. “He had been in training quite a while without showing anything so we said we would just run and since then he has been fantastic.
“He just keeps progressing and improving and it’s great to have a horse like that who keeps it all for the track. Both the first two will head out to grass now and we will look forward to going chasing with them both next season.”
Race & Stay At Punchestown Champion I.N.H. Flat Race (Grade 1)
ON one of those memorable Punchestown evenings, Willie Mullins made it a clean sweep of the three Grade 1 events on offer on day two as Facile Vega completed a unique hat-trick to retain his unbeaten record.
The Hammer & Trowel Syndicate-owned son of Walk In The Park had to work far harder than he has done before but showed that he has courage and determination to match his unquestionable class. In victory he is the fourth horse to complete the Cheltenham-Punchestown champion bumper double while he is the only horse to have won those two races along with the Grade 2 bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival.
It was all looking good for Patrick Mullins and the 8/15 favourite when they cruised on to the heels of their chief Cheltenham rival American Mike and that one was dealt with early in the straight. However, Redemption Day, who ran no race at Cheltenham, emerged with a potent challenge which ensured that the outcome hung in the balance for a period.
Facile Vega had to fight hard but he knuckled down bravely for Mullins and over the course of the last furlong he steadily edged ahead to carry the day by a length and a quarter. There was 14 lengths back to American Mike who in turn finished some 22 lengths ahead of the remainder.
“He had to pull it out there because Jody (Townend on Redemption Day) nearly stole it. The horse had to dig deep and it’s the sign of a good horse,” reflected the trainer.
“The owners didn’t sell the mare (Quevega) and they put her in foal to the most expensive [NH] stallion in the country in Walk In The Park and they have got a fantastic horse out of it. There was big offers for this horse but they decided they are not going to sell him. They are getting a reward and hopefully he will serve them for the next couple of years. He has huge potential and fingers crossed he stays right.”