Meri Devie impresses under Walsh
Meri Devie made the perfect start to her Irish career by seeing off St Leger third Housesofparliament in the Paddy Power 'Only 363 Days Till Christmas' 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Housesofparliament is perhaps the highest profile of the horses to join Joseph O'Brien from his father Aidan, but Meri Devie was no slouch on the Flat herself and was beaten just over four lengths in the Prix Saint-Alary before being snapped up by Graham Wylie.
She even usurped Housesofparliament at the head of the betting and after leading the chasing pack as Easy Pass established a clear lead, hit the front after landing over two out.
Landsman went with her, with Housesofparliament on their heels, and the market principals had it between them at the last, but the Willie Mullins-trained Meri Devie (11/8) produced an impressive change of gear for Ruby Walsh and crossed the line with five lengths in hand.
Sky Bet go 10/1 about the winner for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Walsh said: "She quickened up well, but she was a mile-and-a-quarter filly on the Flat. She showed a good turn of foot and it was a nice performance. She jumped fine and should improve a bit.
"It was a different race yesterday (Bapaume beating Landofhopeandglory). We went a really good gallop then and went very slow today, so you probably couldn't compare them.
"The ground is slower than yesterday. I don't know why, we must have been on the summer tracks or something. It definitely rode slower than yesterday and we had no rain, so I can't really explain it."
Mullins added: "She was very impressive. On that performance I think she looks a Triumph horse, but she could go for the mares' novice [Trull House Mares' Novice Hurdle] also.
"At the moment I'd be looking at the Triumph, as we don't have too many in that department. That's where I'd be trying to put her anyway.
"We think she'll improve hugely. She was very very green in all the schooling we did with her at home.
"We got a nice lead in the race the whole way until the last when she was in front.
"I just said to Ruby make up your own mind after you turn in – if you are lucky enough to be in a position – whether you try and go on at the last or get a lead over it. He did what he did and she did it well.
"She had been very very green at home and is learning at the time. I think she'll get better."
Bacardys battles to maiden success
Mullins and Walsh have enjoyed an excellent start to the busy festive period and followed up when Bacardys battled to success in the Paddy Power 'Easiest To Use Mobile App' Maiden Hurdle.
Last season's smart bumper performer fell on his jumping bow and was being scrubbed along from some way out here, but responded to all of Walsh's urgings and got the better of stable companion Kolumbus by a length and three-quarters as the 4/6 favourite.
Mullins said: "It was a good run from the two of them. Bacardys twisted a shoe on the way to the track, so we were worried if he would get to run at all.
"My lads had his foot in a bucket of ice all morning here at the track and then the blacksmith switched the shoe.
"He seemed okay, but we were wondering when he went to jump on it would he feel it. I suppose the adrenaline kicked in and he seemed fine.
"Kolumbus ran a really good race also and the two of them probably prefer that better ground.
"They could both go out in trip. We'll find another novice for Bacardys somewhere. I have no plans yet."
That's A Wrap
Having also won on Douvan, Walsh completed a four-timer when bringing the Tom Mullins-trained That's A Wrap for a last-gasp triumph in the Paddy Power 'You Beauty' Handicap Hurdle.
Mullins said of the 3/1 favourite: "It was incredible and an extraordinary ride from Ruby.
"I've seen horses coming from there before in Leopardstown but when it's yours you're doubting it.
"Jumping the last my heart was in my mouth. Ruby is a genius. He nearly left it too late – but he didn't."
He added: "He's a right old horse. He's a big horse and chasing will be his game. He's progressive.
"He might come back for the Coral.ie Hurdle. JP will probably have about half the field in it!"
Five-timer for Mullins
With Douvan and Saturnas also in the bag, Mullins completed a five-timer courtesy of 9/10 favourite Ballyward in the Paddy Power Games 'One For The Road' Flat Race.
Patrick Mullins did the steering after also being on board his father's Some Neck, who was successful in the opener at Limerick.
Mullins senior said: "He gallops all day. He probably showed us a bit more speed than he shows us at home. He stays all day. We'll probably go for a winners' bumper somewhere with him and keep him for novice hurdling next year.
"I'd say he wouldn't have any problem going back to two miles on softer ground. Today is probably very good ground and that's why we ran over two and a half miles.
"I think with his pedigree once we get into proper winter ground he will be very competitive over two miles."
He added of the day: "We've had a fantastic two days and fingers crossed we can keep it running."
When asked if the champion trainers' title was on his mind, in a battle with Elliott, he said: "You wouldn't be competitive if it wasn't. The only thing we can do is keep having winners.
"They are really in form and we have a lot momentum to keep going and try. We've got to catch up."
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