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Monkfish far too good for Flogas rivals and Appreciate It secures Grade One double at Leopardstown

Mullins’ star a game winner of the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Updated Feb 7th 2021, 3:58 PM

MONKFISH PUT UP arguably the most impressive performance of his career to date in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

Last season’s Albert Bartlett winner is now three out of three over fences and Paul Nolan must be cursing his luck with Latest Exhibition, who chased him home once again.

There was little between the pair over hurdles at Cheltenham and Latest Exhibition gave Monkfish plenty to think about when they met at Christmas.

However, Willie Mullins’ Monkfish extended his superiority over a clearly very good rival to 11 lengths this time.

Paul Townend was allowed to dictate his own pace at the head of affairs and as has been the case in his chasing career to date, Monkfish’s jumping, especially for a novice, was immaculate.

Latest Exhibition briefly threatened after clearing the second last, but Townend only had to shake the reins and 1-2 favourite Monkfish shot clear.

“The horses are just in fantastic form. What can you say after a performance like that? Paul thought he should be in the next race (Irish Gold Cup),” said Mullins.

“Today I was more impressed than any day. It looks like he might be getting better with each run, it was the ease with which he did it.

“Everything is just so effortless. He just goes down, jumps, gallops. He seems to always be in the right position, he has huge scope – no matter where he is he gets his shoulders off the ground and bends his back.

“Paul never looked worried, he looked like he was a lead horse for the others, turning for home.

“It’s as easy watching him as any horse, he just does everything so easily.

“I presume that (Festival Novices’ Chase) is next, but we’ll enjoy today.”

Townend said: “All I had to do was sit there and steer him to be honest. He locked eyes on every fence and took them on, the loose horse took me on and set him alight a little bit, but I wasn’t worried because he is just a very good horse.

“The feel he gives me, he isn’t a plodder and has a little bit of class.”

Appreciate It bagged a second Grade One from just three runs over timber in the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle.

paul-townend-on-appreciate-it-celebrates-winning-the-chanelle-pharma-novice-hurdle-with-groom-lara-tedstone Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Willie Mullins’ inmate, who was second in the Champion Bumper last March, was backed as if defeat was out of the question and sent off the 1-3 favourite.

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Paul Townend decided to keep things simple on the seven-year-old, having him on the pace throughout on the inside.

With half a mile to run, the field was still tightly packed, but when Townend wound things up, only Ballyadam emerged as a serious threat.

While Gordon Elliott’s charge was put well in his place when fourth at Christmas, he made much more of a fight of it this time but having closed to within a length, Appreciate It still had more to give and went three and a quarter lengths clear. Blue Lord, a stablemate of the winner, was third.

Mullins said: “He was very good when Paul set him alight. I thought he put it to bed straight away after the second last.

“There looked to be a gang of horses queuing up to take him on, but when he changed gear there was just one horse left, Ballyadam, and Ballyadam got tired going to the last and fluffed it. He has a good engine.

“He seems to tick every box, I’d like him to jump better than he did today. I thought he was a little careless down the back – I think he has a better jump in him.”

Townend said: “He wasn’t as breathtaking as he was at Christmas, but he ground it out, which is the sign of a good horse.

“He didn’t jump with as much fluency and was never in control of the race like I thought I could have been, but the good ones get it done and thankfully he has done it.”

Earlier Quilixios justified strong support when running out a ready winner of the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown.

jack-kennedy-on-quilixios-wins-the-tattersalls-ireland-spring-juvenile-hurdle Jack Kennedy on Quilixios. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Trained by Gordon Elliott for Cheveley Park Stud, he was the winner of a hurdle race in France last March before moving to Ireland this term.

Having been impressive at Punchestown and Down Royal on his first couple of outings for Elliott, he seemingly faced a much tougher assignment in this Grade One.

Jack Kennedy was content to sit some way off the strong gallop set by Danny Mullins and Saint Sam, but when he asked his mount to close up, he did so effortlessly.

While his jumping could not be described as super slick, it did not need to be on this occasion and he had the race in safe keeping on clearing the last, winning by five and a half lengths.

Willie Mullins had success in the William Fry Handicap Hurdle with Mazer Runner (40/1) as Conor McNamara was on board while Paul Hennessy trained Heaven Help Us (16/1) to win the opener.

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