Day One

Mullins hails ‘awesome’ Leopardstown effort from Ferny Hollow

Sir Gerhard makes perfect start to hurdling career and Fil Dor shone on Day One of the Christmas Festival.

LAST UPDATE | Dec 26th 2021, 3:03 PM

FERNY HOLLOW CAME out on top in a terrific battle with Riviere D’etel for the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

paul-townend-celebrates-onboard-ferny-hollow-after-winning-the-race Ryan Byrne / INPHO Paul Townend celebrates on board Ferny Hollow. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Despite having made all in his beginners’ chase at Punchestown, Gordon Elliott’s Riviere D’etel was expected to give Ferny Hollow something to aim at given she was getting 13lb as a four-year-old filly.

She will never be getting that much weight again as she turns five next week so it seemed worth a shot from Elliott, pitching her against Willie Mullins’ 2020 Champion Bumper winner, and in truth she lost little in defeat.

Ferny Hollow, who only had one race over hurdles due to injury, had been something of a tearaway in his early bumpers and at one stage this threatened a return to those days as he set off at a tremendous lick under Paul Townend.

Jack Kennedy seemed content to take a lead on Riviere D’etel after a couple of fences and the pair of them put in some tremendous leaps on the way around.

While Ferny Hollow could never convincingly put the race to bed at any stage, the 10-11 favourite always looked to just have enough in hand.

The field were forced to miss what would have been the final fence due to damage caused on the first circuit and with the aid of the rail, Ferny Hollow came away to win by two lengths.

Coral cut the winner to 6-4 from 2-1 for the Arkle at Cheltenham in March.

“I thought that was a huge performance to give that weight to a filly that no one has got near all season,” said Mullins, whose charge remains the only horse to have beaten Bob Olinger.

Everything was against him, but he still pulled it out of the bag. I thought it was an awesome performance

Willie Mullins
“He had come back from an 11-month break last time, but had only three weeks this time – I was worried all week that I was asking too much coming back so soon.

“Everything was against him, but he still pulled it out of the bag. I thought it was an awesome performance.

“He loves jumping. I really did think it was an awesome performance on his behalf. We could have waited another few weeks and gone to Punchestown and as we got nearer the race I wondered if I was doing the right thing. But he showed what he is today.”

He added: “We are very happy with him over the fences, he was never staying over hurdles.

“We’ll probably come back here for the Dublin Racing Festival and then the spring festivals.”

CHAMPION BUMPER WINNER Sir Gerhard made a seamless transition to hurdling with a straightforward victory at Leopardstown today, while Fil Dor cemented his position as the favourite for the Triumph Hurdle.

davy-russell-clears-the-last-to-win-on-fil-dor Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Victorious at the Cheltenham Festival on his first start for Willie Mullins having been with Gordon Elliott, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding Sir Gerhard met with the first defeat of his career at the Punchestown Festival.

Not seen since, he was sent off a 2-9 favourite in the Thorntons Recycling Maiden Hurdle to get his new career off to a winning start and Paul Townend kept things simple, heading straight to an early lead.

He jumped well in the main, and while he got in a little tight to the final flight it did not slow him down and he quickened under minimum pressure to win by eight lengths from Highland Charge.

paul-townend-wins-on-sir-gerhard Morgan Treacy / INPHO Paul Townend wins on Sir Gerhard. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“He’s a very good jumper so I’m very happy to see him come out and do that,” said Mullins.

“I’d like to climb the ladder if I could, but he might just have to go into a graded race next – maybe at the Dublin Racing Festival, something like that. But I think he’s up to it.”

Fil Dor cemented his position at the head of the betting for the JCB Triumph Hurdle with a stylish display in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle.

The 4-9 market leader having won his first two starts over timber in fine style, Elliott’s youngster faced his toughest task to date as he was meeting Noel Meade’s Lunar Power on 3lb worse terms than when they had met at Down Royal, when there was only a length and a quarter between them.

Lunar Power set out to make all under Sean Flanagan, but Davy Russell never let him get far from his sights on the favourite.

As they turned into the straight the market principals began to pull clear of the rest and both appeared to be travelling as well as each other – but approaching the last Fil Dor began to exert his authority and despite landing on all fours pulled seven lengths clear.

“He’s a nice horse, he’s so relaxed and we’re lucky to have him,” said Elliott.

“The Dublin Racing Festival would be the obvious place to go now, either there for the four-year-old race or straight to the Triumph. We’ll see how he is and make a plan.

“We were tempted by Chepstow (Grade One Finale Hurdle) and I suppose it was the prize-money which kept us here.”

Russell said: “We were mad about him from day one as a specimen, but he never really excited us in his work. He keeps it all for the racecourse.

“He’s like riding a point-to-pointer down to a hurdle, he’s so good to jump.

“He loves soft ground, but showed the last day he can handle it a bit better. He’s very versatile.”



  1. Watch House Cross 12/1 (Henry De Bromhead – Sean Flanagan)
  2. Flaming Moon 15/1 (Matthew J Smith – Keith Donoghue)
  3. Whatsavailable 40/1 (Mouse Morris – Simon Torrens)


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