Mullins plotting Ryanair route at Cheltenham Festival for Allaho | Horse racing

Willie Mullins and Paul Townend secured a Grade Two double at Thurles with victories for Allaho and Colreevy. Third in the RSA at Cheltenham in March, Allaho had reappeared in the John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown before finishing fourth to A Plus Tard in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Sent off the 10-11 favourite for the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned seven-year-old took the field along under Townend before being pressed by Mark Walsh-ridden stablemate Elimay.

The latter briefly looked like being a major threat, but the market leader was quick to assert on jumping the last and came home three lengths to the good. A crack at the Ryanair Chase looks like being on the agenda for Allaho at this year’s Festival, a race for which he was cut to 5-1 from 6-1 by Betfair.

Winning trainer Mullins said: “I think he was idling in front all the time, and that [two and a half miles] might be more his trip. I was a little worried when Elimay got to him, but when he saw her he picked up and went away again like a decent horse.

“Elimay ran a fantastic race as well, and she will go for the Opera Hat Chase in Naas next and maybe on to the mares’ chase in Cheltenham after that. Allaho is a huge horse, and I thought he was a three-miler, but maybe he is better off coming back to two-four or two-five – I am thinking about the Ryanair for him.

“He is making progress, and I think he will improve into the spring – which is the time of year you want to improve in. I’m looking forward to his next run, and he’ll probably go straight to Cheltenham.”

Colreevy , the 4-5 favourite, took her record over fences to three from three in the Coolmore N.H. Sires Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase. Like Allaho she was in front from the outset, although Scarlet And Dove was giving her a race before crashing out at the second-last.

Mullins said: “She jumps very well and takes it all in her stride. Paul was very happy with her, and how she did everything for him with no fuss about her.

“There’s a Grade Two chase at Limerick in March that we’re looking at next – but whether or not she has higher expectations, I don’t know. I’ll chat with the owners – but they were hoping, coming here today, to hopefully win and then go on to Limerick.

Mullins added: “We might revise plans, but we’ll see – whether or not she has enough experience over fences to go to Cheltenham is another day’s work. Certainly what she has done at Limerick over Christmas and today would lead you to think she might have as good a chance as anything over there.”

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Basilica takes top honours


St Mark’s Basilica has been crowned champion two-year-old in Europe for 2020, in what the handicappers admitted was not a “vintage year” for juveniles.

The Covid-19 lockdown saw the British and Irish Flat seasons delayed by two months until June, with Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board handicapper Mark Bird feeling the late start combined with “slightly muddled” form lines had seen last year’s juvenile crop rank lower than previous generations.

Nevertheless, St Mark’s Basilica achieved a rating of 120 in winning the Dewhurst at Newmarket in October, making him Aidan O’Brien’s 11th champion two-year-old and the seventh consecutive winner of that race to take the European crown. His rating is 8lb lower than that achieved by Pinatubo in 2019.

Stablemate Wembley, who was runner-up at Headquarters, is equal second in the classifications alongside Clive Cox’s Middle Park winner Supremacy, with a rating of 118. O’Brien’s unbeaten Derby favourite High Definition was given a figure of 115.

Bird said of St Mark’s Basilica: “We rated his effort in landing the Darley Dewhurst Stakes as marginally the best form shown by a European two-year-old in 2020 and just ahead of that shown by the 12 other Group One-winning two-year-olds in Europe this year.

“At this stage of his career, he rates higher than his half-brother Magna Grecia who won the Qipco 2000 Guineas as a three-year-old and he appears to hold every chance of emulating his sibling in winning that event in 2021, with normal progression as a three-year-old.”

Supremacy is the leading British-trained two-year-old ahead of Charlie Appleby’s Autumn Stakes winner One Ruler on 114 and the Marcus Tregoning-trained Alkumait, the Mill Reef victor, on 113.

British Horseracing Authority Handicapper Graeme Smith said: “Supremacy became the latest in a long line of Group One-winning sprinters to emerge from Clive Cox’s stable over the last decade and achieved a rating of 118 when defeating the Group One Phoenix Stakes winner Lucky Vega in a deep-looking Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes.”

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