Gaelic Warrior landed the first Grade One of his career in the Irish Mirror
Novice Hurdle at Punchestown – and it looks unlikely to be his last.
Stepped up to three miles for the first time, the Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old proved in a different league to his rivals, strolling to a 10-length victory under Paul Townend as the 4-5 favourite.
Last second finishing second to stablemate Impaire Et Passe in the Ballymore at Cheltenham, earlier in the season he had won one a highly-competitive handicap over two miles at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Gordon Elliott’s Favori De Champdou had ensured the race was run at a true enough pace and approaching the second-last flight he was still in front with the Mouse Morris-trained Franciscan Rock and Noel Meade’s Affordale Fury ready to pounce. Just in behind, though, was Townend who was sitting motionless and biding his time.
Gaelic Warrior hit the front on the run to the last and Townend only pushed him out with hands and heels to claim an easy victory. His only two defeats since joining Mullins have come at the last two Cheltenham Festivals.
Betfair went 8-1 from 20s for next year’s Stayers’ Hurdle, while Paddy Power went 6-1 from 8s for the Turners Novices’ Chase.
“The trip was a big help to him. I was hoping the ground would be a help to him, but Paul thinks it wasn’t,” said Mullins. “I think the trip was a lot of it and Paul was once again ice cool, sitting in behind a wall of horses waiting for the right gap to come and he produced him at the right time.
“He must come into staying hurdle territory now after that. He has the option of going chasing, but we’d have to have a good look at keeping him over hurdles. That looks to be his job there.
“We’ll get home and think about it but what I saw there, the way he improved going that extra trip, he looks to have the Stayers’ Hurdle written all over him.
“He does jump a bit right but those type of horses always settled the more racing they get, he’ll get the hang of it.”
Townend said: “When they rushed around me, they were committed at that stage so I was happy to see that happening. “He settled like a dream and that was the key early on.
“Going that way is a huge help because you make him keen by trying to keep him straight.”