WILLIE Mullins came away from Gowran Park with a double that was headed by the Red Mills Trial Hurdle, but it was So Young and not his odds-on stablemate Zaidpour who emerged victorious in the day’s feature to move his trainer on to 150 winners for the season.

Last year’s winner Zaidpour was returned at 4/6 for this Grade 2, but he seemed ill at ease after a mistake at the fifth and had no answer to So Young. A high-class novice hurdler earlier in his career, and a smart sort last season, So Young had yet to win this term. However, he had run with credit against Solwhit last time, and this was his first try at two miles in over a year.

The David Casey-ridden So Young was travelling strongly as the runners entered the straight and was almost on terms with Arnaud and Zaidpour. The last-named then had a brief spell in front, but So Young, who recovered well from a mistake two out, quickened up smartly. The Madeline McMahon-owned son of Lavirco took command before the final flight to post a half dozen lengths triumph over Zaidpour.

“I’m not sure about him; we’ve been running him over further but maybe this trip is the key,” remarked Mullins. “David said that he travelled very well through the race and that he was happy at all stages. He’s now four from four over two miles. We could keep him at home now. Zaidpour was lifeless and Paul (Townend) felt that he was just never travelling.”

Earlier Mullins struck with the Susannah Ricci-owned Djakadam (4/7) in the Shantou At Burgage Stud Maiden Hurdle. The Saint Des Saints gelding was making amends for his Irish debut at Thurles when he came down after the last flight. Djakadam went out to his left somewhat at the second last flight, and the chasing Ibsen wasn’t all that far away, but the market leader quickly drew away to finish 14 lengths clear for Paul Townend.

“He’s a chaser in the making. I’ll keep him at home this season,” stated Mullins.

The first division of the two and a half miles handicap hurdle went to Vics Canvas (4/1) who had spent almost two years off the track prior to returning with a fourth to Tennis Cap at Naas last month. A first winner since August for jockey Conor Maxwell, Vics Canvas travelled well and he looked to have the race under control from before two out.

Vics Canvas held a useful lead as he neared the last flight, and a safe jump there allowed him to come home seven lengths ahead of Sumkindasuprstar. Dermot McLoughlin, who trains the winner for the Bodeen Bandits Syndicate (whose members include ATR’s Gary O’Brien), stated: “He’s a good horse but he’s had leg trouble in the past and also has trouble with ulcers. He’ll get further and he will go on better ground, but we’ll just see what the handicapper does.

[Sadly, this proved to be the last victory for So Young, but both Djakadam and Vics Canvas went on to enjoy notable success.

Djakadam won five chases, including the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase twice, and, back at Gowran Park, the Goffs Thyestes Chase. He twice finished second in the Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup, and was four times runner-up in the Grade 1 Punchestown Gold Cup.

Vics Canvas won the Grade 3 Proudstown Handicap Hurdle, while his sole victory over fences was in the Grade 2 Cork Grand National.

He was runner-up in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown and third in the Aintree Grand National]

Special night as Ana gets first win


THIS was a fixture to cherish [at Dundalk] for Ana O’Brien and her father Aidan, as the 16-year-old jockey got off the mark on her eighth ride as Fairylike swooped late in the apprentice riders’ handicap.

A younger sister of champion jockey, Joseph, and amateur rider, Sarah, she had gone close to riding her first winner when Ernest Hemingway was grabbed late last October, but it was the experienced previous winner Fairylike who got her off the mark.

The Oratorio filly was allowed to go off at 10/1 and it looked as if this race was out of reach as the front running Benbecula turned for home with a substantial lead. However, he began to falter inside the last couple of furlongs and, inside the distance, the leader could do no more and Fairylike’s steady challenge carried her to the front.

A delighted Aidan O’Brien said afterwards: “It’s great for Ana and your first winner is always very special. Hopefully we’ll be able to give her more opportunities during the year. They seemed to go quite fast up front which set it up for our filly.”

[The Annemarie O’Brien-bred Fairylike had previously been successful at Ballinrobe as a three-year-old with Joseph O’Brien in the saddle, and a month after this Dundalk success Ana was in the saddle when the mare won again at Dundalk. In July the combination clicked again at Leopardstown]

Death of Alec Wildenstein


LEADING French owner and breeder Alec Wildenstein died last Monday following a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 67.

The fourth generation of a renowned family of art dealers, he was born in 1940 and had been involved in the family breeding and racing operation since his youth and, along with his brother Guy, had taken over the management of the stable upon the death of his father Daniel in 2001.

From 2002 to 2005, Alec Wildenstein experienced a number of racing highlights with horses running in the famous dark blue jacket and light blue cap. Bright Sky won the Group 1 Prix de Diane Hermes and the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera. Aquarelliste took the Group 1 Prix Ganay. Westerner amassed several Group 1 wins for stayers both domestically and abroad, and Vallee Enchantee won the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase.

In 2004, Kotkijet, owned in partnership with trainer Jean-Pierre Dubois, landed France’s biggest jumping prize, the Grand Steeple Chase de Paris.

Long-time trainer Elie Lellouche said: ‘‘Like father, like son. Alec Wildenstein was a wonderful person to be around and over the years we developed a friendship which went far beyond the owner-trainer relationship and, like his father, he was an exceptional man. He was very straightforward and it was a real pleasure to work for him. I trained about 60 horses for him and I don’t yet know what will happen. I am very sad and he will be sadly missed.’’

Jockey Olivier Peslier, who carried the Wildenstein colours to success in the 2006 Ascot Gold Cup (at York) on board the Lellouche-trained Westerner, said: ‘‘I rode for the family, initially for 11 consecutive years, during which time we shared tremendous success. Alec was not only my boss but also a very good friend. Both Alec and his father Daniel were wonderful people to ride for and they were always extremely supportive to me in my career.’’

Every classic

Under the Ecurie Wildenstein and Dayton Investments banners, the family won every French classic in the flat, jump, and trotting disciplines. However in recent years their level of investment had decreased. The Wildenstein broodmare band is composed of more than 50 mares, based mainly at the Haras de Bois Roussel.

Daniel Wildenstein was a major figure in European horse racing. His first major winner was Beau Prince II, winner of the 1954 Grand Criterium. Since then it has seen a permanent flow of top-class runners such as Yelapa, Faraway Son, Allez France (who was named by Alec), Flying Water, Pawneese, Lianga, Peintre Celebre, All Along, Arcangues and Sagace.

The family’s association with racehorses dates back to 1922 when Georges Wildenstein, Alec’s grandfather, purchased his first yearlings. Their colours were first carried to classic success in 1935 when Kant won the Poule d’Essai des Poulains. The family left France during World War II and Daniel took over the operation in 1947.