Wednesday, March 16, 2022

WILLIE Mullins saddled his 81st winner at The Festival as Energumene took the Grade One Betway Champion Chase. It was the trainer’s first success in the two-mile chasing championship.

It is a 20th Festival success for jockey Paul Townend and third for owner Tony Bloom.

The 5-2 chance saw off Funambule Sivola by eight and a half lengths with another four and a half lengths back to Envoi Allen in third.

Shishkin, the 5-6 Favourite, was never travelling well and was pulled up by Nico de Boinville after the eighth fence.

Winning trainer Willie Mullins celebrates with connections of Energumene
Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Winning trainer Willie Mullins said:  

“We just felt that we had completely the wrong tactics at Ascot. But today it wasn’t about tactics so much – Shishkin just didn’t handle that ground and Nico wisely pulled him up, and I was just very disappointed to see Chacun Pour Soir going out of the race early, but I could see Paul travelling and the horse loving conditions here. It probably suited him better. He’s got more speed than maybe we thought – at Ascot we thought after the race we should have waited, rather than play our cards early.

“That was the only plan I could think of. We had to change something and that was the plan, that we should follow Shishkin around, but then I got worried and said, Shishkin wasn’t travelling over the first two fences – Paul has to think about winning the race as well, when is he going to leave Shishkin and go and concentrate on the race? But Nico pulled up the other horse, so it was a bit of an ganticlimax. Still, from my point of view it was nerve-wracking. You could see he was travelling the whole way, though. It’s great for Paul, and great for Tony Bloom.

“I was really disappointed about Chacun Pour Soir. I didn’t really see what happened because I had just taken my eyes haway from him to look at another horse. I thought he was absolutely loving it out there, so it is frustrating. I am of course delighted to win this race; I haven’t done things as dramatically as Henry [de Bromhead] did last year, but yes, we’re getting there!”


Successful jockey Paul Townend said: 

“It was a headache first trying to pick which one to ride, and it was hard to get off Chacun – I love Chacun Pour Soir, but I love the two horses and it was a really hard decision. We went through tactics a lot at home – everyone had a bit of an input and I was trying to get everyone’s opinion on it, so it’s brilliant when it works out.

Paul Townend with groom Imran Haider (left) celebrates winning on Energumene
Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

“I went out to ride a race, and over the first two I could see Nico trying to get a bit closer and I was watching to see what was happening, watching his body language, and I had to make the decision then to go after the race as well, and it was clear that Nico wasn’t going on. I just had to ride my own race after that and I probably ended up riding three or four different races, but it worked in the end.

“He jumped so well, he got me into the race and I could fill up everywhere. It just worked out for him. The decs were done before the rain came, but I had my waterproofs ready for riding this morning and I was just sorry I didn’t get to put them on! But the ground is loose, they are getting through the ground, and they are National Hunt horses.

“He is top-class, I think. I thought to be involved in the race at Ascot was exceptional, bar the result on our behalf, but they are two proper horses and they will meet again. For now, though, it’s magic.

“Going on didn’t work for us at Ascot and we rolled the dice and tried to chance it, and as it worked out today it probably didn’t matter, because Shishkin wasn’t going, but we rolled the dice and they came up.

“Riding a Champion Chase winner for Willie – Ruby [Walsh] didn’t leave many behind him but we are glad to pick up what scraps he left! We were out of luck yesterday but in luck yesterday, so that’s all right and everyone’s in one piece.

“Every day’s a school day [referring to Ascot] and there’s no point getting older if you don’t get wiser.”


Winning owner Tony Bloom said: 

“I believe in Willie and Paul Townend, who rode a magnificent race and the rain really helped us. We were praying for rain. We’re all getting very wet, but we’re delighted to be wet. He’s an amazing horse. We were very confident going in, and he’s won the Champion Chase. It’s brilliant.

“We were very excited. Obviously Shishkin pulled up, that made it a lot easier for us, but full credit to Energumene. An amazing horse. It’s brilliant. We’re having a great time.”

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