02 January 2018

One of the great appeals of horse racing, and jumps racing in particular, is its unpredictable nature, and there were plenty of surprises on the second day of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival. All eyes were on Min in the first Grade 1 on the card, the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase, and the Willie Mullins-trained favourite passed the post in front under Paul Townend. His passage, however, had not been smooth, with the Grade 1 winner edging left and hampering British raider SIMPLY NED (IRE) on the run-in, and the latter was placed first after a stewards’ enquiry.

Experience and determination, along with a talented pilot in Mark Walsh, were in the eventual winner’s favour and victory was well-deserved, with the ten-year-old having placed in his three previous starts in the race. Trained by Nicky Richards, SIMPLY NED (IRE) was bred by Irene Hatton out of the Marju (IRE) mare Bishops Lass (IRE). He is a son of Annshoon Stud sire Fruits Of Love and is twice a graduate of Tattersalls Ireland, most recently selling to Gerry Griffin for €23,000 at the venue’s August NH Sale.

The chase, however, was no match for the drama that would unfold in the proceeding Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle. Likewise, there was an exciting favourite in the shape of Mengli Khan (IRE), an impressive Grade 1 winner earlier in December. He unfortunately had other ideas and ran through the wing of the second last, leaving the Mullins-trained pair of Real Steel and Sharjah to take over proceedings. In sequences you couldn’t predict, they both fell at the last and relinquished the race to their patiently-ridden stablemate WHISKEY SOUR (IRE), who ran home 19 lengths in front of the second.

The winning trainer was understandably flabbergasted, saying afterwards, “I said to David (Mullins), 'how did you miss all those horses?' He said, 'it's lucky he's small'. It was an extraordinary race and I don't know what to take from it.” WHISKEY SOUR (IRE) won a maiden hurdle in June for the Irish champion trainer and went on to win two valuable handicaps at the Galway Festival. He had previously registered two flat wins for Eddie Lynam, who co-owned the son of Jeremy with current owner Luke McMahon.

Bred by Airlie Stud and a graduate of the Goffs Foal Sale, he is out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Swizzle Stick (IRE), herself a half-sister to dual Group winner Viztoria (IRE). Champion three-year-old Zilzal and American Derby victor Awe Inspiring feature further down the page.

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