Wednesday, April 26, 2023
 THE Willie Mullins onslaught on the major prizes on day one of the Punchestown Festival did not extend to the third of the Grade 1 contests, though it was the champion trainer’s nephew Emmet, who also trains out of Closutton, who took the honours in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase.

Donagh Meyler on Feronily wins The Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Steeplechase at the Punchestown Festival
Photo: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Feronily (7/1) was given a peach of a ride by Donagh Meyler, who described it as a monkey off his back to finally record his first Grade 1 triumph.
It was a maiden top-tier win too for Mullins Jnr,who has established a reputation of thinking outside the box since taking up a training licence. The Grand National-winning trainer’s campaigning of Feronily would certainly not be found in any contemporary manual on convention in the sport of horse racing but not for the first time, he has shown that not everybody has to do things the same way.
A ten-length winner of his point-to-point only last November, this was the Getaway six-year-old’s sixth run since. Two of those were in bumpers, finishing second and then third in a Grade 2 at the Dublin Racing Festival in February.
He was then given his hurdling debut at Grade 2 level in Kelso at the beginning of March, when fourth, before winning his maiden at Limerick.
A swift transfer to the larger obstacles followed a fortnight later, in a Grade 3 at Cork when Feronily was runner-up to Bachasson. That was enough for the trainer and Feronily’s enterprising owner, Paul Byrne to give the gelding the green light for this assignment.
In opposition were Willie Mullins’s Grade 1 winners Appreciate It and Sir Gerhard, as well as the fancied Henry de Bromhead charge, Journey With Me but Meyler displayed tremendous confidence in his partner, vying for the lead with the latter before taking over.
Journey With Me looked beaten when taking a crashing fall at the 12th fence, by which point Appreciate It and Paul Townend began to close on the leader. He couldn’t get to him though and Feronily jumped well under pressure before galloping stoutly to the line.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Meyler, glad to record the biggest success of his career just over a week after his girlfriend Niamh Rockett captained Waterford to national camogie league honours.
“He’s given me a great spin. He jumped from fence to fence and travelled well. It’s great to ride my first Grade 1 winner and obviously to have Emmet’s first Grade 1 winner as well is fantastic. I’m over the moon.
“He ran in the Grade 3 in Cork from a maiden hurdle so he’s taken it step by step and he’s taken it really well. The sky’s the limit hopefully but we’ll leave connections decide on that. They’re clever men, so we’ll leave it up to them.
“It’s been a monkey on my back for a while (not to win a Grade 1) so it’s fantastic to get over the line.”
Emmet Mullins was impressed with both horse and jockey.
“He’s probably a better horse again than I even gave him credit for but it was a brilliant performance and a brilliant ride by Donagh.
“He’s a special horse. He’s come through the point-to-point ranks and he looked very impressive at Rathcannon and I was surprised with got him for the price we got him for (£45,000 at Cheltenham). It was brilliant and it’s all worked out.
“He’s a top-class horse. His second start over fences, to go out in front and do a jumping performance like that. This was always going to be his deal and why waste time knocking around for another year over hurdles. Get on and do the business.
“We did (fancy him). We definitely did. We have a lot of plans but it’s nice when one of them work out.”

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