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Weatherbys General Stud Book Irish EBF Mares Bumper

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by Paul Ferguson

To date, there have been just four renewals of the Weatherbys General Stud Book Irish EBF Mares INH Flat Race, with the inaugural running (2016) won by Augusta Kate, for Willie and Patrick Mullins, and the Masters Syndicate, which included Graham Wylie, Alan Shearer, Lee Westwood, and the well-known double act ‘Ant & Dec’. Seventh in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and runner-up in the Grade 2 for mares at Aintree on her previous two starts, she would become a Grade 1 winning novice hurdler 12 months later.

Handed Grade 3 status after just one running, the second renewal of the race was won by the Jonathan Sweeney-trained Minutestomidnight, partnered by Jamie Codd. Following a maiden Point-to-Point success and a 12-length win in a Wexford bumper, the six-year-old justified favouritism, but didn’t see the track again following that ½-length defeat of Mystic Theatre, who won her next five starts.
 
Mystic Theatre also represented the powerful combination of Willie and Patrick Mullins, and the pair teamed up to land the race again in 2018, with Colreevy (pictured above, right). Like Augusta Kate, she had finished seventh against the geldings at the Cheltenham Festival, and would return to Punchestown on the very same card 12 months later, to win the Grade 1 bumper, where she beat recent Aintree Hurdle winner, Abacadabras. A winner once from four starts over hurdles, the imposing daughter of Flemensfirth has taken her form to another level as a novice chaser this season, winning all four starts to date, latterly in the very first running of the Mares’ Chase back at Cheltenham. A Grade 1 winner earlier in the campaign, she easily beat Mount Ida (another festival winner last month) by 12 lengths in Grade 2 company, and she holds an entry in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Steeplechase, where she could take on Monkfish and Envoi Allen, no less. She clearly won a strong renewal of this race three years ago, as she gave 8lbs and a 5½-length beating to Black Tears, who, of course, won the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
 
The latest renewal of this race was taken in impressive fashion, by Gypsy Island, who, sadly, hasn’t raced since. Following a defeat in a Navan maiden hurdle in November 2018 (at the hands of recent Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Put The Kettle On), Peter Fahey’s daughter of Jeremy reverted to bumpers, winning at Naas and, in Listed company, at Fairyhouse. She was heavily backed to complete the hat-trick, and ridden very patiently by Derek O’Connor, she eventually ran out a thoroughly convincing winner. The two placed mares went on to win Grade 3s over hurdles the following season, whilst yet another of this year’s Cheltenham Festival winners – Coral Cup heroine Heaven Help Us – was beaten 44 lengths into 11th.
 
Whilst Willie Mullins couldn’t add to his tally of two wins in the race, son Patrick did finish third aboard Minella Melody for Henry de Bromhead and leading owner Kenneth Alexander, so his record in the race reads 1213. As for Mullins Senior, he has saddled nine mares in the race so far, and is sure to be well-represented again. He was responsible for four of the first six home in a similar event (Grade 2 for mares) at the Dublin Racing Festival, after which the winner Grangee went on to finish sixth behind Sir Gerhard and Kilcruit in the Champion Bumper. Mullins has actually entered both her and the exciting four-year-old filly Belle Metal in the Grade 1 at Punchestown, but both are likely to be considered for this event, too. Interestingly – with the latter in mind – the record of four-year-olds in this race currently stands at 0-8, although four of the eight have finished in the first four home.
 
We look forward to seeing the entries for next week’s race in the coming days, but judged on previous results, it is safe to assume that the race is (once again) likely to throw up a smart mare or two going forward.