Mullins 'pleasantly surprised' after saddling 16 winners over Christmas
Willie Mullins admitted at Leopardstown on Tuesday that even he was surprised by how well his horses performed throughout the Christmas fixtures as the champion trainer sent out a four-timer on the day, bringing his festive period total to 16.
Away from the Grade 1 victories of Sharjah and Monkfish, it would have been the performance Concertista put up in the Grade 3 mares’ hurdle that would have given Mullins most satisfaction on the day.
An emphatic winner of the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, Concertista brought her tally to two from two this term and did so in style, with Mullins revealing that a tilt at the Mares’ Hurdle at the festival was the most likely long-term target.
“She was very good,” Mullins said. “It was a searching pace. We thought Mary Frances would go on but Rachael [Blackmore, on Minella Melody] went ahead. That suited our other mare My Sister Sarah.
“Paul [Townend] elected to drop in and I thought he might be a little too far out of it turning into the back straight. The pace up front got her back into the race.
“She was very brave and very good to do what she did there today. I'd imagine the Mares' Hurdle is the target. She'd look nicely positioned for that race. We'll come back here first for the Dublin Racing Festival. She's improving all the time.”
Mullins poked his nose in front of Gordon Elliott in the trainers’ championship but, given his surprise at how well the horses have performed over Christmas, he may not have been expecting to hit the front so soon in that particular race.
“After the first two maiden hurdles here on Saturday I was wondering whether the horses were sick," he said. "We had aimed a lot of horses for this meeting but I suppose I am pleasantly surprised.
“I was hoping that we would have a good Christmas. We are well ahead of what I expected. You don’t expect this sort of stuff but things have just fallen together for us.
"We got the rub of the green a good few times and the horses are in great form – and Paul is riding fantastic.”
First winner for Tom Kelly on Bolger's Maestro
There are few better stages to break your duck than Leopardstown at Christmas and Tom Kelly enjoyed a day to remember when doing just that in the opening opportunity handicap chase on Midnight Maestro for his boss Enda Bolger.
The trainer said: “That was nice. I was a small bit worried when they took out the last fence because the horse is a great jumper. He could end up going down the cross-country route.”
Bolger added: “That's Tom's first winner. I'm delighted for him and he has been working with us for the last year. He's well able to do those light weights, so he will get his chances.”
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