WillowWarm Gold Cup (Grade 1)

PROBABLY the most popular Grade 1 success of the entire season was saved for the Fairyhouse Easter Festival when Spillane’s Tower and Jimmy Mangan repelled the wrath of Willie Mullins to plunder the WillowWarm Gold Cup - a whole 16 years on from the trainer’s last strike at the highest level in this very race.

All bar one of this season’s 24 Grade 1 races prior to this in Ireland had been won by either Mullins or Gordon Elliott, so this goes down as a huge touch for a smaller trainer who has long proven himself as fully capable of delivering the goods when dealing with the necessary horsepower.

J.P. McManus entrusted Mangan with the smashing six-year-old by Walk In The Park and this was by far the best performance we’ve seen yet from the 7/4 winner in his career.

He didn’t appear to do a whole pile when hitting the front under Mark Walsh and could have jumped a little sharper in the main, but his superiority over the field was undeniable. Noreen McManus’ homebred pulled a length and three quarters clear of Tactical Move, who produced a fine effort under pressure for Danny and Willie Mullins, and third-placed Blood Destiny - unable to confirm the form of his Flyingbolt Novice Chase clash with the winner from earlier in the month.

This victory also represented a landmark for the winning jockey, who was notching his 800th winner between Britain and Ireland.

“It was brilliant, but nothing that we didn’t expect with this horse,” said Mangan, savouring his second win in the race after Conna Castle in 2008.

“From day one, we’ve liked him and he’s taken to fences really well. I’m so delighted for the lads at home in the yard and the McManus family for sending him to me. If you didn’t get a kick out of today, you might as well give up. I’m so happy for Pat Murphy, who rides him every day, and all the girls in the yard. We love the horse.

Big future

“I was so delighted when I saw him coming off the box from Martinstown. I thought if he had an engine we’d be away, and thankfully he has. This horse is only six, his future is ahead of him. When the ground dries, he’ll go home to Martinstown. I couldn’t see why he wouldn’t stay three miles but that will be for next year. We’re hoping for the big time but taking one day at a time.”

He added: “It’s incredible for us to win this. We only have about a dozen horses and most of them are point-to-pointers. Most of them are always sold, hopefully this fella will be staying.”

Paddy Power introduced the winner at 40/1 for next year’s Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup, and cut him to 16/1 (from 40/1) for the 2025 Ryanair Chase.