NOT many National Hunt horses who make just three appearances in the space of 1,003 days have a cult following but Monkfish is no ordinary horse and returned to an excellent reception after plundering the Grade 2 John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle - his first win over hurdles since the 2020 Albert Bartlett.

Willie Mullins and Susannah Ricci’s imposing stayer has struggled to deliver the soundness to match his talents in recent seasons, as evidenced by some lengthy absences in recent seasons.

However, this battling success to overhaul Summerville Boy and Ashdale Bob proved that the competitive juices are still flowing in the four-time Grade 1 winner, getting up to score by five and a half lengths under Paul Townend.

The winning trainer was a rare absentee from his local track’s biggest day of the year, but his son and assistant Patrick Mullins said: “We thought he was a Gold Cup horse once upon a time but that’s a great start to his season and hopefully can build on it now.

“We were supposed to start him at Tramore on New Year’s Day but he got a little bang so we decided to wait for this. He’s in the Gold Cup and Stayers’ Hurdle but all options are open and it will be a case of what race suits, when he’s ready.

“We won’t rush him back and Cheltenham is only seven weeks away so he’ll probably go straight there. The decision regarding which race he runs in will be a Willie special! Ruth Dudfield does a fantastic job in keeping him sound.” Regarding the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle, the race sponsors cut him to 16/1 (from 66/1), while he is now 33/1 (from 50/1) for the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Cody collects easily

The form of last season’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper continues to look better and better with each passing week, and the Mullins-trained Captain Cody became the 19th subsequent winner to emerge from that 21-runner contest when capturing the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Ladies Auction Maiden Hurdle.

Partnered by Jody Townend, who was sporting the colours of Vincent Caldwell, Angela Shamoon and Mrs A Shamoon Ibgi, the 2/11 favourite won with the minimum of fuss by 10 lengths in a weak event.

Patrick Mullins said: “He was probably entitled to do that. He jumped a bit rusty at times but when it counted, over the last two, was very good. He seems to love this heavy ground. Hopefully it’s onwards and upwards for him now.”

Tactical strike

A Thyestes Day treble for the champion trainer, and the Townend family, was brought up in the Daly Farrell Chartered Accountants Beginners Chase when the useful Tactical Move opened his account over fences at the ripe old age of 10 for Joe and Marie Donnelly.

A total of 1,158 days separated his bumper and maiden hurdle wins in November 2019 and January 2023, and this was only his fifth lifetime start under rules.

“He had a nice run on his comeback this season when second behind Nick Rockett and he backed it up well today,” Townend said of the strongly-supported 5/4 favourite.

“We came down the straight fast, and he was accurate. I think he’s got a decent level of ability. I liked him last year and we didn’t get to see him afterwards. Hopefully we’ll keep the wheels under him. That will bring him on again, I think.”

Exciting youngster Samyr is a first Robcour winner for Joseph O’Brien

A superb afternoon - and season - for Robcour rolled on into the concluding four-year-old P.J. Foley Memorial Bumper when newcomer Samyr justified 4/5 favouritism under John Gleeson for Joseph O’Brien.

Bought as a yearling at Tattersalls Book 2 for 280,000gns back in October 2021, the well-bred Sea The Moon gelding put his rivals away impressively to score by eight lengths.

O’Brien said: “It was a nice performance and I’m delighted for Brian and Rob [Acheson]. It’s my first runner in the Robcour colours. He was bought to go on the flat, Alex Elliott bought him for Brian as a yearling, but he had a couple of setbacks so Brian decided we’d wait for his four-year-old bumper campaign. We might reap the rewards of that going forwards.

“He’s a good looking, well-bred horse and there is no doubt he could go back to the flat at some stage. We’ll see what Brian and the team want to do now.”

Donnelly off the mark

Jockey Luke Donnelly recorded his first winner in exhilarating fashion when guiding the Enda Bolger-trained Champagne Platinum to victory in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle for J.P. McManus - surviving a late scare when briefly easing up after mistaking the winning post.

The 20-year-old son of jockeys Lulu Olivefalk and Joey Donnelly said: “I’m absolutely delighted. I briefly mistook the winning line before thinking ‘I may go again’!

“I’ve been in Enda’s since September and that’s my second ride over hurdles. I’m from Nenagh, had six rides as an amateur and recently switched to be a conditional jockey.”