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07th Feb 2021

Still room for a feel-good winner as Mullins dominance continues

Niall McIntyre

Paul Hennessy only has two horses in training. It’s quality not quantity though, because on the biggest weekend of the Irish racing calendar, one of those horses made its way to the winners enclosure.

It was a welcome bolt from the blue on a stage and at a time when Willie Mullins’ dominance was beginning to reach monotonous levels. The idea of a closed shop does nothing for racing’s image and so the sight of an underdog triumph is a welcome novelty.

Perhaps it’s a stretch to call Hennessy – a two-time English derby winning greyhound trainer – an underdog but this is a different game with different rules and his 16/1 winner of the first Heaven Help Us gives hope to the smaller yard. For young jockey Richie Condon, it was the biggest win of his career but he rode like a seasoned veteran in landing the €59’000 prize for connections.

“To be honest with you, I haven’t slept a whole pile the last few nights, I’ve been doing a lot of dreaming,” said an excited Condon.

“Stop the lights. It’s super special,” said Kilkenny trainer Hennessy after taking the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle.

What makes the win extra special for Hennessy is that the race is named after the late Paddy Mullins, who used to bring him racing when he was a chap.

“Paddy brought me everywhere, whenever there was room in the car… It’s crazy for us to have only two horses training here to win.”

Elsewhere, Willie Mullins and Paul Townend dominated proceedings winning 8 of the festival’s first 13 races. Most impressive for the Closutton handler were Monkfish – who again got the better of Latest Exhibition – while Kilcruit was untouchable in Saturday’s bumper. Chacun Pour Soi and the precocious Energumene also caught the eye in victory for the Mullins battalion while Kemboy stormed clear in the big race of the weekend, the Irish Gold Cup.

There was however, room for one more feel good story with Galway trainer Pat Fahy winning the Ladbrokes hurdle with Drop The Anchor on Saturday evening.

Fahy has been a stalwart of the game for many years and though some of the bigger yards have taken over, he’s still as talented as any handler out there.

“It’s tough going and it has been tough and any win like this is great for the yard. We’re all listening to the same names every day but my staff are as good as any of them, if not better, and they’ve proven that today…”