Mullins strikes early again

The early news from Wednesday's action at Leopardstown, where the winners kept flowing for Mullins/Ricci/Walsh combination.

It's business as usual as Montalbano and Ruby Walsh go on their way to winning the At The Races Maiden Hurdle.

The Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh and Rich Ricci triumvirate continued its dominance of the Christmas racing action in Ireland when Montalbano justified odds-on favouritism in the At The Races Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Useful on the level, the 8/11 favourite moved through the race smoothly for Walsh but was made to work quite hard to land the odds.

Black Key and Youcannotbeserious set the target, but Montalbano pulled clear of the latter to win by two and three-quarter lengths.

Walsh said: "He was quite keen last week at home and I wanted to get him settled. He jumped super, travelled well and ultimately won well."

Mullins was narrowly denied a double when bottom weight and 5-1 joint-favourite Isleofhopendreams just failed to reel in Electric Concorde in the Pertemps Qualifier.

Trained by Jim Culloty, the 11/1 chance made much of the running under a good ride from David Mullins.

Electric Concorde looked sure to be swallowed up turning into the straight as there was a host of runners still apparently travelling well in behind.

Mullins stole a couple of lengths approaching the last, though, and it was just enough as Isleofhopendreams was catching with every stride but failed by a head. Barnahash Rose and Woodford Island took minor honours.

"He was an unlucky loser the last day when he was squeezed for room and made a bad mistake at the second-last," said Culloty.

"I felt he was well handicapped but he was a novice in against handicappers. My only worry was his lack of experience, hence we ran the way we did.

"He's improved for the step up to three miles, and will probably go for the Final at Cheltenham."

Bleu Et Rouge produced a tremendous turn of foot to give Mullins yet another winner in the Ballymaloe Foods Beginners Chase.

A Grade One winner over hurdles last season, the JP McManus-owned five-year-old was heavily backed and went off the 6/4 favourite.

Several sloppy leaps left him adrift of the front five turning into the straight and Barry Geraghty briefly appeared to have accepted his fate. However, his mount suddenly picked up the bit two out and closed the gap in no time.

He still had plenty to do at the last as Gangster, formerly trained by Mullins and now with Henry de Bromhead, jumped to the front. Bleu Et Rouge quickened smartly, though, and won going away by three-quarters of a length, with Don't Touch It third.

"He jumps well at home but he didn't bring that to the track," said Mullins. "I think he got a fright at the first and lost his confidence. He needs a bit more schooling.

"He must have a huge engine to win and I thought he had no chance after the second-last. I think two miles is fine for him but he'll get more time to jump over a longer trip."Geraghty should have been celebrating a double of his own after Thirsty Work won the Irish Daily Star Christmas Novice Handicap Hurdle but he was on the wrong McManus runner.Instead, Robbie Power rode Jessica Harrington's five-year-old to success with Geraghty on the Tom Mullins-trained Spider Web, the 11-4 favourite.Thirsty Work (6-1) was a beaten favourite last time out but on this occasion he held off Tudor City by a length and three-quarters."The inside track at Punchestown didn't seem to suit him the last day and he never really got into a rhythm," said Harrington."He jumped great today after the first couple, and it's great to have a winner here for JP. We'll find something similar for him."

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