Connacht Hotel (Q.R.) Handicap

A MUCH longed-for first victory in this coveted amateur prize finally arrived for Patrick Mullins as Echoes In Rain translated her jumping class back to the flat to win the opening night feature.

The decorated amateur has enjoyed a singular career but had gone 15 rides without success for this six-figure prize.

This year though he had an impressive partner to rely on in Echoes In Rain who was successful at Grade 1 level over hurdles last season. Her more recent form included an excellent second to Honeysuckle at the Punchestown Festival and an encouraging effort on the flat on Guineas weekend.

The Barnane Stud-owned winner has in the post shown a tendency to race a little too keenly, but here she put everything together and also had the assistance of the country’s finest amateur to aid her cause.

Good gallop

A good gallop allowed the 11/4 favourite to settle nicely after going around half a mile and, after getting some cover, Echoes In Rain travelled beautifully through the race. As the runners began their descent to the straight with half a mile to run, the Patrick Mullins-ridden mare could be picked out travelling notably well. There was a fleeting scare less than three furlongs out where she received a bump from last year’s winner Coltor but this mattered little.

Tanking along

Echoes In Rain was tanking along on the bridle nearing the turn for home and it didn’t take her long to pick off Cask Mate. There was momentary concern in the closing stages as stablemate Maze Runner came with a strong last furlong charge, but the day belonged to Echoes In Rain who kept on bravely to score by a length and a half.

Dutch Schultz ran a splendid race to take third and the Swedish import, Lot Of Joy, secured fourth which made it a one-two-four for Willie Mullins.

“You keep trying and you might hit the bullseye,” exclaimed a delighted winning rider. “She has been too free in the past, particularly when she was younger but the more racing she’s gotten the more relaxed she has become. The went a gallop, she settled and it worked today.

“Once I got cover I was happy. A lot depended on how she broke but she broke well. This is the amateur Derby and I’m thrilled to win it and emulate my father who won it for my grandfather (Pargan in 1985).”

The winning trainer, who has won four of the last six editions of this race, declared: “I’m delighted Patrick has won it and for the owners too. She’s a high-quality mare but can be a little temperamental in her races. Patrick said they just went fast enough for him get her settled and he stayed wide to keep her out of trouble.

“Maze Runner ran a cracker for Elliot (Ohgren) who is a top-class Swedish amateur rider and has been with us for the last year.”