Willie Mullins is no stranger to rewriting history and he ripped up the record books once again on Clonmel’s biggest day of the year, writes Bradley West.
Cilaos Emery had been the pre-race favourite but it was stablemate Bachasson who beat him into second as he dominated from start to finish to win the Clonmel Oil Chase.
That 1-2 gave Mullins a record-equalling sixth success in the Grade 2 showcase in only eight years, putting him level with Michael Hourigan as the most successful trainer ever in the race – Hourigan having famously led the great Dorans Pride to four consecutive victories around the turn of the century.
Not that Mullins was always so confident, initially believing his nine-year-old – ridden by his nephew David - had set off at too fast of a pace to see off his opponents.
“He was very brave and David had lots of confidence in him – I thought he had gone too far out, but I think he had more confidence in the horse than I had,” Mullins said.
“Paul [Townend] thought Cilaos Emery needed the race and I’m happy with both nice horses.
“After Bachasson got a fall in Cheltenham I wasn’t keen to go back over fences with him, but around these country tracks he is fine. He seems to enjoy doing that.
“I didn’t look beyond today and we wanted to come down here and see where we were with them, although Cilaos Emery could now go for the Hilly Way at Cork.”
It was Bachasson’s first race since March but you would not have guessed it the way he, expertly guided by Mullins, took the lead and never relinquished it.
Stablemate Cilaos Emery was also racing in a first, his first two-and-a-half-mile race over fences, and for a long time it looked like a barnstorming finish was in order with the 8-11 favourite keeping close tabs on the leader throughout in second.
But, at the third last fence, the eight-year-old made a crucial error with his jump and could never recover with Noel Meade’s Snow Falcon a distant third.
The Mullins family enjoyed a fruitful day at Clonmel with this win one of three for trainer Willie, the second coming with son Patrick in the saddle on Jungle Boogie and the third with Power of Pause.
Meanwhile, David also rode another winner on It Could Be You for father Thomas.
Reflecting on the feature race win, David said: “He [Bachasson] was very good. I underestimated how testing it is out there with the wind.
“I thought we’d gone slow. For a small little horse he can jump and gallop and do things well. He’s a very good Grade 2 horse and a real horse you’d love to have.”
Elsewhere, Gordon Elliott earned a double with Sassy Yet Classy winning the Clonmel Oil Service Station Handicap Hurdle and Shattered Love taking the Listed T.A. Morris Memorial Irish EBF Mares Chase.
Spancil Hill won the Prior Park Service Station Clonmel Handicap Chase for Michael McDonagh while Conquredalofeurope took victory in the I.N.H Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle for James Motherway.