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Willie Mullins has to settle for minor honours in Perth Listed events

Willie Mullins has to settle for minor honours in Perth Listed events
Willie Mullins has to settle for minor honours in Perth Listed events

Willie Mullins had to make do with minor honours in the two Listed events on the opening day of the Perth Festival as Sounds Russian and Apple Away both secured popular victories.

Better known as a high-class staying chaser, Sounds Russian was sidelined for the best part of the year after suffering a knee injury which subsequently required surgery after being brought down in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Having finished fifth in the Rendlesham Hurdle on his February comeback at Haydock, the nine-year-old was a 5-1 shot for the British EBF Gold Castle ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle under Brian Hughes and knuckled down to to secure a three-length success over the Mullins-trained 8-11 favourite Loughglynn.

Winning trainer Ruth Jefferson said: “That was good, he travelled better today and jumped better and Brian said it was like riding a different horse to Haydock.

“He was the fresh horse in the race, it was only his second run of the season so that probably helped as well, but you couldn’t really be anything other than happy.”

Of his injury, Jefferson added: “We’ve never really had this type of injury before, so we were sort of making it up a bit as we went along. Everyone has done a great job, from the surgeon to the girl who had him in pre-training and when he came back to us it was just a question of whether he’d stand up to it.

“We haven’t had many bumps in the road, you never quite know but he obviously hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for it which is the main thing.

“He’ll have a summer break now as there isn’t really a lot for him and he wouldn’t want quick ground anyway.

“We now know he goes right-handed, which opens up a few options. We might look at the Charlie Hall if the ground is all right and we could look at the Betfair Chase and there is the race at Ascot (1965 Chase) if it was soft enough.

“I’m sure there will be something for him over fences and that is the plan, but if not we can always go back over hurdles.”

Mullins also saddled the marginal favourite for Robertson Homes Fair Maid Of Perth Mares’ Chase in 7-4 shot Instit, but she too picked up the silver medal behind Grade One-winning hurdler Apple Away.

Apple Away was a Grade One winner over hurdles
Apple Away was a Grade One winner over hurdles (David Davies/PA)

Since that top-level win at last year’s Grand National meeting at Aintree, Lucinda Russell’s seven-year-old has been plying her trade in quality novice events over fences, most recently finishing fifth in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Instit set out to make all the running under Paul Townend, but she was reeled in by 9-4 chance Apple Away and pilot Derek Fox, with four and three-quarter lengths separating them at the line.

Ed Seyfried of owners Old Gold Racing said: “I think she’s just had an unlucky campaign actually, so to get a Listed win over fences under her belt is fantastic.

“I think we all expected her to continue on the trajectory she was on last season and until this afternoon she hadn’t quite done that, but I think there are genuine reasons for that and I lay the blame mainly on the weather, it just made mapping out a really good campaign for her really difficult.

“I think we’re going to have a lot of fun next season as we’ll send her hurdling and chasing. Where she goes is above my paygrade as I don’t know how to plot these things, I’ll leave it completely up to the people who know what they’re doing, but it’ll be interesting.

“It’s good that horses are partially colour blind as there were so many Old Gold scarves there it was kind of blinding, but there was such a good atmosphere because of it. I reckon we had 200 or 300 Old Gold members there and maybe I’m being a bit fanciful and fantastical, but hopefully the mare and the Old Gold members kind of fed off each other.

“Everyone was so happy and in the nicest way possible, it’s nice to serve one up to the Irish!”

Although out of luck in Scotland, with the well-fancied pair of Dr Eggman and Figaroc also coming up short, Mullins did enjoy a winner with his first ever runner at Ludlow.

Daddy Long Legs, ridden by the Closutton handler’s son Patrick, obliged as a 1-7 favourite with the easiest of victories in the opening Butty Bach Novices’ Hurdle, seeing him extend his lead in the race to be crowned British champion trainer.

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