Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

THERE have been some brilliant winners of the newly-sponsored Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle this century and Ballyburn has all the potential to be among the best of them on the evidence of his devastatingly impressive 13-length strike that continued a spellbinding start to the week for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.

The Closutton maestro was responsible for five of the seven runners and swept the first five places in the opening Grade 1 of the day, with 66/1 shot Jimmy Du Seuil taking a massive step forward for second under Sean O’Keeffe, while Ile Atlantique failed to really build on his fine Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle effort in third.

Jumping impeccably and travelling powerfully, there was barely a moment’s doubt for supporters of the 1/2 favourite, owned by Ronnie Bartlett and David Manasseh.

“A lot of people have been talking about it, but this was the first time he has wowed me - that was some performance,” said Mullins, who has now won the race a record seven times with the likes of Mikael D’Haguenet (2009), Faugheen (2014) and Yorkhill (2016).

“For Paul to take a look around turning for home - that must have been the feel the horse was giving him. Paul says he looks keener than he is; it’s just his head carriage and the way he does things, but he doesn’t actually pull as hard as it looks he does.

“He could be anything. That was a Champion Hurdle performance in my book. You’d love to be going chasing with his pedigree and size and scope, but imagine - there you are, with Lossiemouth for the Champion Hurdle next year.

“I’ll have to have a word with Ronnie and David. I don’t know, we might just get on chasing and try to make a Gold Cup horse out of him. He’s out of an Old Vic mare and he’d love that.”

’Huge performance’

Townend, winning the race for the third year in a row, made it four Grade 1 wins in the space of his last four rides at the meeting.

“It was a huge performance, because I know all the horses behind him and I thought it was a talented field,” said Ireland’s champion jockey.

“He gave me a nice headbutt at the start because he throws his head around a bit, but that’s just him. If you got in a row with him you’d probably upset him so you just have to play with him. His jumping was savage, and his galloping wasn’t bad either!

“I was doing a half-speed everywhere, to be honest. The ground is hard work, I just let put half an inch of rein going to the last and then getting over it was the main thing.

“He could be anything, and I think he’d take a fair bit of whacking at two miles too. He’s just a very, very talented horse, and he fairly blew away the Supreme winner [Slade Steel] at Leopardstown, so the form was stacking up.”