Willie Mullins claimed a tenth victory in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle on Sunday at Punchestown as Mystical Power came from last to first in the home straight to win easing up by seven-lengths.
The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham now looks the obvious target.
Bred in the purple, by Galileo out of the legendary mare Annie Power, the 5/4 favourite was returning from a six-month layoff, in a field of four promising individuals.
The Gordon Elliott trained Jigoro, stable-companion Lombron and the JP McManus-owned winner were all pretty impressive in their respective hurdle contests coming into this Group 2 feature.
Mystical Power raced freely for Mark Walsh and didn’t jump the first couple of flights too well under restraint, but his hurdling definitely improved as the race went on.
In a matter strides on straightening up, Mystical Power was right alongside leader Jigaro, and he quickened nicely on the run to the last which he took in style before galloping on strongly to the line.
Mullins’ assistant David Casey said post-race: “I was impressed with him; he wouldn’t show that at home. He seems to save his best for the track, which is a great trait to have. We were a little worried if he would handle that heavy ground, but it looks like he went through it very well. I thought he showed a fair turn of foot there.”
Banbridge halved in price for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham after his victory in the Coral Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton on Saturday.
Joseph O’Brien’s charge tracked the freewheeling Pic D’Orhy into the home straight and the front two had the race to themselves over the last three fences pulling well clear of the balance.
Banbridge found the Nicholls trained Pic D’Orhy hard to pass but was more fluent over the last, landing running, which proved decisive as JJ Slevin drove him out for a length-and-three-quarters success.
Winning jockey Slevin commented in the winner’s circle: “He was a very good horse last year, when he won a Grade One, but we felt he’d just straightened up a bit this year, so we hope he’s a better horse now. All four of his competitors had good form and came here with a good chance, so hopefully he’ll have learned a bit from that run and can still progress.”
Also, on Saturday, Grey Dawning ran out a convincing winner of the Gr2 Trustatrader Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick.
Dan Skelton’s charge had looked a certain winner at Cheltenham last time out, only to make a mess of the penultimate fence, which resulted in him finishing an unlucky second.
A well-backed 5/4 favourite to make amends, the big grey was settled in behind the front-running Apple Away for much of the three-mile contest by Harry Skelton, with Broadway Boy the only other horse really in contention on the turn for home.
Grey Dawning made smooth progress on the outside to grab the lead from Apple Away at the second last, and despite running slightly down that fence, he kept galloping to the line to win by 14 lengths.
“You wouldn’t know how good this horse is and I couldn’t believe he won two bumpers, but he just comes alive at the track,” said winning rider Harry Skelton. “Apple Away and Broadway Boy went off on the front-end and I was able to just follow away and when we swung into the straight and got racing, he came alive.”