Willie Mullins. Tom Maher/INPHO
Dublin Racing Festival

Clean sweep of Grade Ones for Willie Mullins as State Man takes Champion Hurdle

Mullins won eight out of eight Grade Ones at Leopardstown.

A REMATCH WITH the mighty Constitution Hill looms large for State Man following a comfortable defence of his Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle crown at Leopardstown.

Since falling on his first start for Willie Mullins at this track in December 2021, State Man has been the dominant force in the division in Ireland, winning nine of his next 10 outings.

His only defeat during that period came at the hands of Nicky Henderson’s Constitution Hill, who proved nine lengths too strong in the Champion Hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival.

And while State Man clearly has his work cut out to turn the tables in the Cotswolds next month, he confirmed his status as the reigning champion’s biggest threat with an eighth Grade One victory under Paul Townend.

Having been unable to reel in his stablemate in the Matheson Hurdle in December, Impaire Et Passe this time set out to make all the running under Daryl Jacob, with State Man (2/5 favourite) his nearest pursuer.

State Man took over travelling strongly before the home turn and was always doing enough in the straight to keep a resurgent Bob Olinger at bay, with five and a half lengths separating the pair at the line.

Earlier at Leopardstown, El Fabiolo continued his relentless march towards next month’s Queen Mother Champion Chase with a dominant display in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase. 

Having tracked his stablemate and last year’s winner Gentleman De Mee for most of the two-mile-one-furlong journey, El Fabiolo (4/11 favourite) took over with a big leap two fences from home and was in in full command thereafter, only having to be pushed out by Paul Townend to score by eight and a half lengths from another Willie Mullins-trained runner in Dinoblue.

Meanwhile, Ballyburn further enhanced his burgeoning reputation with an emphatic victory in the Tattersalls Ireland 50th Derby Sale Novice Hurdle. 

The son of Flemensfirth was the 10/11 favourite to successfully step up to Grade One level today, and the drop in distance from two-and-a-half to two miles proved to be no problem whatsoever.

Paul Townend positioned Ballyburn close to the pace from flag-fall and having travelled well into the home straight, he readily kicked clear as he raced by the omitted final flight and passed the post with seven lengths in hand over Slade Steel.

Finally, Fact To File came home in splendid isolation after his stablemate and only rival Gaelic Warrior departed at the final fence when already well beaten in Ladbrokes Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

An initial field of five was reduced to a Grade One match between two Willie Mullins-trained runners, with the champion trainer withdrawing Grangeclare West and Gordon Elliott taking out Saturday’s Irish Arkle runner-up Found A Fifty together with his stablemate American Mike.

The two-mile-five-furlong contest was predictably a tactical affair, with Paul Townend allowing 4/7 favourite Gaelic Warrior to stride on in front for much of the way while Mark Walsh was content to sit on his tail aboard 6/4 shot Fact To File.

The race was already over as a contest when a weary Gaelic Warrior made a bad mistake and unseated his rider at the final obstacle, allowing Fact To File to coast to what would have been an emphatic victory in any case.

These victories completed a remarkable festival sweep for Willie Mullins, winning eight out of eight weekend Grade Ones. 

“Superb”, Mullins told RTE. “Delighted for my owners and my staff, they have all been fantastic. It’s extraordinary. Everything has come together. We have tremendous owners who invest in Irish racing, and it’s tremendous to have people like that, coming in from abroad to put money into Irish racing and we are the beneficiaries. We are very lucky.” 

With reporting by Gavin Cooney 



Press Association
Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel