Magnificent Min makes serious pitch for Champion Chase crown
The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase was a race that badly needed a shot in the arm, and it got just that as Min produced a performance of real quality in the Coral Dublin Chase.
His winning display at Leopardstown on Saturday led to bookmakers cutting him to between 2-1 and 4-1 second favourite (from as big as 11-2) for the Cheltenham Festival showpiece, behind Altior at a best-priced 11-8.
The Min that lost the Grade 1 here at Christmas in the stewards' room was a distant memory. Settled off the pace by David Mullins as last season's Champion Chase winner Special Tiara went off at a frenetic pace, he gradually made up his ground, was cantering behind the leader coming to the last, and stretched clear on the run-in to win by a dozen lengths from his conqueror here at Christmas, Simply Ned, with Special Tiara a neck away in third.
Detractors may point to the proximity of the 149-rated Ordinary World, who had stayed on to be within a length of the leader when making a horrific blunder at the last, but that was before Min's rider had asked him any sort of question.
Trainer Willie Mullins had blamed his defeat here at Christmas by him being too free and being buzzed up by one of his rivals.
He said: "They went very fast and David elected to drop him in today and you could see the difference. We just changed our tactics a bit and it made all the difference."
He added: "I imagine we'll go straight to Cheltenham for the Champion Chase, I don't think we have anything else in mind for him."
Winning owner Rich Ricci said: "It's good to have him back. They didn't hang around. David eased him into the race and it's good to be back on the dance floor."
Ricci did not rule out the Ryanair as an option for Min at Cheltenham and added: "If we can get Douvan back it gives us options; I'd say Min will get two and a half miles no problem."
This race was noteworthy too for the terrible performance of Min's stablemate Yorkhill under Paul Townend, who was struggling from off the pace the whole way and trailed in sixth of the seven runners, beaten 80-plus lengths.
His trainer said: "He was very disappointing, Paul said he was never travelling. It's completely back to the drawing board with him and we will see if anything turns up to explain it. He wasn't happy going over fences at that pace."
Simply Ned's rider Mark Walsh accepted there were no excuses for his mount, saying of the runner-up: "He ran a cracker but the real Min showed up today."
Henry de Bromhead was very pleased with the efforts of both Special Tiara and Ordinary World, the trainer saying: "I don't know if it was a hard luck story for Ordinary World, he unfortunately made the mistake and we'll never know. He seemed to be coming there alright. I'm delighted with the run.
"I'm delighted with Special Tiara too. He was awesome on that ground, which he hated. I don't know if you'll see both of them in the Champion Chase but you'll definitely see Special Tiara."
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