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    Willie Mullins sweeps Dublin Racing Festival weekend with four double-time wins
Willie Mullins sweeps Dublin Racing Festival weekend with four double-time wins

Willie Mullins sweeps Dublin Racing Festival weekend with four double-time wins

El Fabiolo, State Man, Fact to File and Ballyburn win for Irish trainer

Willie Mullins stunned his opponents as he added four more Grade One victories on Sunday to collect the total of the eight top-level events at the meeting.

It was, despite minor disappointments, a remarkable two days, among Mullin’s winners on the first day there was a certain quality of inevitability about the predictions for day two as El Fabiolo (4-11), in the Dublin Chase, and State Man (2-5), in the Irish Champion Hurdle, completed the races. The combined price of ­Mullins’s four-timer was only 8-1 and just that big since Fact To File (6-4), overtook his stablemate, Gaelic Warrior, in what concluded to be a Mullins match-race for the Grade One Ladbrokes Novice Chase.

“It’s extraordinary, we know that,” Mullins commented after completing his remarkable sweep.

“Everything has come together, we have tremendous owners who invest in Irish racing and they love it. It’s tremendous to have people from abroad ­bringing money like that into Irish racing and we’re the beneficiaries, we’re very lucky.”

Three of Mullins’ four ­winners are likely to start favourite for races at the Cheltenham festival next month. Fact To File hold the highest price at the market for the Turners Novice Chase, El ­Fabiolo remains a favourable betting candidate for the Champion Chase while ­Ballyburn, astounding in the two-mile ­novice hurdle, has replaced his stablemate ­Mystical Power as 2-1 preference for the Supreme ­Novice Hurdle, and also headlines the list for the ­Baring Bingham Novice Hurdle the ­following day.

In the meantime, State Man is the 7-2 second-favourite for the ­Champion ­Hurdle, and the only suitable ­opponent for the undefeated ­Constitution Hill in the feature race of Cheltenham's first day on 12 March. The seven‑year-old has now won 10 of his past 11 sprints, losing only once to ­Constitution Hill at the previous Cheltenham festival. 

The next few weeks preceding Cheltenham will be spent contemplating the next strategic moves, as Mullins confirms, although he is aware of the degree of obstacles State Man will have to face: “I doubt you’d be able to lock up Constitution Hill [by sending several opponents out to stop him], as soon as he got one bit of daylight he’d be gone, and that wouldn’t be fair anyhow,” he commented. “I don’t think there’s going to be too many runners in it, so perhaps a change of tactics might make all the difference.”

El Fabiolo is currently estimated at around 4-9 to bring Mullins a third successive win in the Champion Chase, however,  Ballyburn’s goal at the Festival shows little potential to be specified this early into the season. 

The six-year-old bay gelding was a spectacular winner over two-and-a-half miles at Leopardstown’s Christmas race but experienced no problems with falling back to the minimum trip this Sunday, going seven lengths ahead of Slade Steel. “It was a great performance,” Mullins remarked. “He met hurdle after hurdle right and he was in control the whole way.”

Fact To File, who was moved clear to novice chasing after having been one of last season’s top bumper horses, also has a few courses of action to fall upon  at coming the Festival, in either the Turners or the Brown Advisory Novice Chase over an additional half mile. “He’s always shown me that he’s good,” Mullins stated. “From the first day he came into the yard, he was one I marked down as “he could be anything, and he’s doing everything right.”

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