Sceaux falls on his debut
Chasing bow comes a cropper for Mullins' charge at Thurles as stablemate Vautour takes over favourite's tag for the Arkle at Cheltenham
The most pleasing sight during yesterday's racing at Thurles was the image of Ruby Walsh grabbing Un De Sceaux after their premature exit from the beginners chase and being able to hack the then Arkle favourite back to the parade ring.
Willie Mullins' high-class recruit to novice chasing made the worst possible start when falling at the third-last fence on his chasing debut yesterday but thankfully appeared none the worse for his tumble which left the race for Jessica Harrington's Mr Fiftyone to claim.
Un De Sceaux was sent off at odds of 1/8, having been 1/10 in places earlier in the day for the beginners chase which is by far the shortest price of any horse in memory.
A keen front-running type, Un De Sceaux was third or fourth when the starter let the tape up but he quickley found himself leading the 16-runner field which saw second favourite Empire Of Dirt crash out at the second fence.
It looked set to be a flawless display from the long-odds-on favourite as he hardly put a foot wrong throughout the race until clipping the top of the third last and crumbling on landing the far side of it.
Willie Mullins said afterwards: "I just hope he won't make a habit of it. He came out of it well and is grand apart from one little cut which any horse can get. I was very happy with him prior to the fall and it was just one of those things and it was a novicey mistake."
The bookmakers reaction was to push Un De Sceaux out to 5/1 for the Arkle which in turn makes his stable companion Vautour the new 4/1 or even 7/2 and 3/1 favourite in most places for the opening novice chase of the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The fall of Empire Of Dirt in the race saw jockey Bryan Cooper have to be stood down for the day after getting a kick.
Cooper is in his first full season as retained rider to Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud and has an exciting book of rides coming up over the weekend at Fairyhouse but his agent commented: "He's okay, just sore after he got a kick to the leg and is hoping to make the Fairyhouse meeting without a bother."
Elsewhere at Thurles, Willie Mullins did enjoy a double on the card with Clondaw Court taking the Rock Of Cashel Hurdle and extending his unbeaten record to five from five. The one-time Cheltenham Champion Bumper favourite has been plagued by niggly injuries that have halted his progression but he showed he still has plenty of class when winning by four lengths on his first start since January.
"I was going to go novice chasing with him as he jumps well but he can be difficult to train so I said we'd start him off in a few hurdle races," said Mullins. "If he stays right he'll go novice chasing otherwise he'll be kept for those staying hurdles. He has lots of ability."
There was also a winning debut over hurdles for French recruit Max Dynamite who may just live up to the second half of his name after impressing in the maiden hurdle, leading Boylesports to give him a quote of 25/1 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle although he could be set to go further in time.
"He jumped and settled well," Mullins added.
"We thought he might be hard to ride but he worked out an easy ride and did it nicely for his first time over hurdles. Ruby thought he should go up in trip, I wasn't too pushed but he has plenty of scope."