Impaire Et Passe leads home a Willie Mullins 1-2-3 in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham
Despite being the talking horse of the pre-Festival preview circuits he was usurped as favourite shortly before the tapes went up by Paul Nicholls' Hermes Allen and allowed to go off at 5/2. The winner, runner-up Gaelic Warrior and Barry Connell's Good Land were all marking each other in mid-division for the most part as Champ Kiely gave Hermes Allen a lead at the front end. But when Hermes Allen moved up to eyeball Champ Kiely and forced the pace to quicken four out, the pack were edging their way closer to the action and as the runners descended towards two out, it was clear Paul Townend had plenty of horse underneath him. Taking the brave route up the inner, the five-year-old was soon in the clear and Townend simply had to keep his mount's momentum moving forwards as he scooted up the hill to return a six-and-a-half-length verdict. Gaelic Warrior and Champ Kiely filled the podium positions for the Closutton yard, as Mullins enhanced his fine record in the race, registering his sixth victory and following up Sir Gerhard's triumph 12 months ago. Impaire Et Passe runs in the 'double green' colours of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede - who were on the mark on day one with El Fabiolo in the Arkle. Munir said: "He's been working very, very well and he won his races in Ireland well but he was going up in distance and the ground was another question mark. To win by six and a half lengths on his fourth run is breathtaking. It's very exciting. "It was quite a deep race, Champ Kiely, Gaelic Warrior, Hermes Allen from England - all horses with good form lines. It was competitive, Willie was right to go for the Ballymore and not the Supreme. "He's really a blank canvas, that was the fourth run of his life, he's won by six and a half lengths and came over the last in the lead. The sky's the limit at the moment - the dream is very much alive." Mullins said: "That was good, I was very impressed. When he got through, the change of pace coming down the last - wow. "I think that was just his fourth run of his life so there's improvement there. "I'm looking at him as a chaser, but you have to ask yourself would you stay hurdling? You have to look at Champion Hurdles and things. "Yesterday I was telling Michael Buckley (owner of Constitution Hill) that we were going to have go off and shop again to buy one to beat him, but maybe we have one here. His jumping is great, so maybe we have one." He added: "Gaelic Warrior, we took out his ear plugs out on the way to the start and he didn't settle as well as Patrick (Mullins) wanted him to. Patrick did say he could go up to three miles, so maybe he's a chaser down the line. "Champ Kiely surprised me by staying on so well. Danny (Mullins) said he hung terribly down the back, we'll see if he had a problem, but he's another who will make a nice chaser down the line."
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