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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Greg Wood at Leopardstown

Willie Mullins lands second four-timer at Dublin Racing Festival weekend

State Man (yellow), with Paul Townend on board, goes on to win the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.
State Man (yellow), with Paul Townend on board, goes on to win the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Willie Mullins was playing a dif­ferent game to his fellow trainers over the two days of the Dublin racing festival at the weekend – a game of Monopoly, in fact, as he added four more Grade One victories on Sunday to complete a clean sweep of the eight top-level events at the meeting.

It was, even by Mullins’s ­standards, a remarkable two days and while there were some upsets among his winners on the first afternoon there was more of an air of ­inevitability about proceedings on day two as El Fabiolo (4-11), in the Dublin Chase, and State Man (2-5), in the Irish Champion Hurdle, completed the rout. The combined price of ­Mullins’s four-timer was just 8-1 and only that big because Fact To File, at 6-4, turned over his stable com­panion, Gaelic Warrior, in what ended up as a Mullins match-race for the Grade One Ladbrokes Novice Chase.

“It’s extraordinary, we know that,” Mullins said after completing his clean sweep. “Everything has come together, we have tremendous owners who invest in Irish racing and they love it. It’s tremendous to have people from abroad ­bringing money like that into Irish racing and we’re the beneficiaries, we’re very lucky.”

Three of Mullins’s four ­winners are likely to start favourite for races at the Cheltenham festival next month. Fact To File is the market leader for the Turners Novice Chase, El ­Fabiolo remains odds-on for the Champion Chase while ­Ballyburn, highly impressive in the two-mile ­novice hurdle, has replaced his stable companion ­Mystical Power as 2-1 ­favourite for the Supreme ­Novice Hurdle, and also tops the list for the ­Baring Bingham Novice Hurdle the ­following day.

Lingfield 1.15 Alghazaal 1.45 Rogue Thunder 2.15 Time Patrol 2.45 Lartigue 3.15 Masqool 3.45 Amancio 4.20 Musical Diva (nap)

Carlisle 1.32 Rattling Road 2.02 Martator 2.32 Lunar Discovery 3.02 Royale Margaux 3.32 Grand Soufle 4.07 Breeze Of Wind 4.40 Red Cadillac

Southwell 4.25 Simiyann 5.00 Uther Pendragon 5.30 Quercine 6.00 Copper Mountain 6.30 Beylerbeyi (nb) 7.00 Ney 7.30 Kiss My Face 8.00 Boafo Boy 8.30 Yesterday’s Hero 

State Man, meanwhile, is the 7-2 second-favourite for the ­Champion ­Hurdle, and the only feasible ­opponent for the unbeaten ­Constitution Hill in the feature event of the ­festival’s first day on 12 March. The seven‑year-old has now won 10 of his past 11 starts, with the sole defeat – by nine lengths – ­coming from ­Constitution Hill at Cheltenham last year.

Mullins will spend the next few weeks pondering whether a change of tactics might be in order next month, although he is realistic about the­ challenge for State Man. “I doubt you’d be able to lock up Constitution Hill [by sending several opponents out to stop him], as soon as he got one bit of daylight he’d be gone, and that wouldn’t be fair anyhow,” he said. “I don’t think there’s going to be too many runners in it, so perhaps a change of tactics might make all the difference.”

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El Fabiolo is now priced at around 4-9 to give Mullins a third successive success in the Champion Chase, but Ballyburn’s target at the Festival is unlikely to be decided until much closer to the meeting.

The six-year-old was an impressive winner over two-and-a-half miles at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting but had no issues with Sunday’s drop back to the minimum trip, powering seven lengths clear of Slade Steel at the line. “It was a great performance,” Mullins said. “He met hurdle after hurdle right and he was in control the whole way.”

Market Rasen 1.35 Sailed Away 2.05 Moon D’Orange 2.35 Good Lord 3.05 Top Cloud 3.35 Inflexible 4.05 Park Princess 4.35 Monaghan Boy

Taunton 1.50 The Doyen Chief 2.20 Moorefields 2.50 Inoui Machin 3.20 Our Nel 3.50 Golden Ace 4.20 Stormy Flight 4.50 Gyllen

Wolverhampton 5.30 Eagle’s Realm 6.00 Jungle Dance 6.30 Local Music 7.00 Crimson Coronet 7.30 New Hope Bullet  (nb) 8.00 Berkshire Phantom (nap) 8.30 Warminster

Fact To File, who switched straight to novice chasing having been one of last season’s best bumper horses, also has options at the Festival, in either the Turners or the Brown Advisory Novice Chase over an additional half mile. “He’s always shown me that he’s good,” Mullins said. “From the first day he came into the yard, he was one I marked down as “he could be anything”, and he’s doing everything right.”

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