Paul Townend produced a remarkable recovery en route to guiding Allegorie De Vassy to victory in the Coolmore N.H. Sires Mogul Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase at Thurles on Sunday.
The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old was sent into the lead by Townend as the tapes went up and secured a clear advantage before shifting to her right as she approached the first fence, which caused her rider to become unbalanced.
Townend was quick to put both of his arms around her neck on landing but lost his left iron. His silks became undone and his goggles were disturbed.
It seemed inevitable the pair would part company but Townend somehow managed to shift back in the saddle and regain his composure before Allegorie De Vassy jumped the second fence.
The classy mare had been victorious in three previous starts for the Closutton handler, most recently taking the Grade Two Dawn Run Mares Novice Chase at Limerick by 19 lengths.
At the same level at Thurles, she was the 1-8 favourite to oblige again, but her supporters would have breathed a huge sigh of relief after Townend’s magnificent recovery.
That was the only moment of doubt, however, as the bay then strolled home without seeing another rival to prevail by 19 lengths once again.
Reflecting on the success, and the dramatic incident at the first fence, Mullins said: “Maybe it was my fault as I said to Paul to let her go from the start and she was too exuberant at the first – I don’t think he’ll be listening to me again!
“Paul thinks it was pure exuberance and he was letting her roll down to the fence rather than pulling her together and asking her. She went off right, but he gathered her together more after that.
“I think it was a one-off thing and she didn’t get a jump this week as our jumping area was frozen.
“She was just too fresh and exuberant, but settled into it nicely and confirmed what she showed at Limerick.
“What impressed me at Limerick was that she was able to jump so well out of the heavy ground – most horses can’t keep that up for two miles and four furlongs, but she did against good opposition.”
Paddy Power make Allegorie De Vassy the 13-8 favourite for the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase they sponsor at Cheltenham, with Coral going 6-4 for the Festival contest.
Mullins added: “I’m very pleased today and doubt she’ll run before Cheltenham although she will have a school somewhere, maybe after the Dublin Racing Festival or the week after that. At the moment the mares’ chase (at Cheltenham) is where she’ll go.”
Embassy Gardens booked for Albert Bartlett following wide-margin win
Willie Mullins’ Embassy Gardens booked his ticket to the Cheltenham Festival with a runaway success in the W.T. O’Grady Memorial Irish EBF Novice Hurdle at Thurles.
The seven-year-old started as the 5-6 favourite under Paul Townend after some promising maiden efforts that led to the step up to two miles and seven furlongs, for a race won by Monkfish on his way to Cheltenham two years ago.
There may have been some room for improvement in the fluency of his jumping but with two flights remaining he streaked away from his rivals and strolled across the line a massive 35 lengths ahead.
The Albert Bartlett is now the next destination, for which he was slashed to 7-1 from 20-1 by Paddy Power.
“That was a bit more straightforward and he appreciates that step out to three miles,” Mullins said.
“He galloped them into the ground. I imagine the way he gallops through the line, he’ll take up his date in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham. He doesn’t need a run before Cheltenham.
“Hopefully he stays sound and wins a nice novice race this year and he looks a real chasing type.”
Mullins was out of luck in the feature Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase, where Haut En Couleurs fell at the last when holding every chance and Chacun Pour Soi failed to land a blow.
“To me he looked like he slipped, it was one of those things and thankfully horse and jockey are fine,” the trainer told Racing TV of Haut En Couleurs.
Of Chacun Pour Soi he added: “He didn’t impress Paul during the race, he got to the front and Paul just wasn’t happy with him. Maybe age is catching up with him.
“I’ll get him home, check him over and we’ll see where we go.”
By Harry Allwood of the Racing Post