Leading Irish trainer Willie Mullins went into the Fairyhouse Winter Festival hoping that one of his stable stars could showcase his Cheltenham Festival credentials.
Impaire Et Passe was the odds-on favourite for the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle after rattling off four straight victories during his novice hurdling campaign.
However, the horse’s bubble was emphatically burst after the Gordon Elliott-trained Teahupoo outstayed him in the home straight to win the race for the second successive year.
The top Irish horse racing betting sites were unimpressed with Impaire Et Passe’s performance, pushing him out to odds of 8/1 to win the 2024 Champion Hurdle.
Reigning champion Constitution Hill appears to have little to fear from Mullins’ charge, who may be better to suited to being campaigned in novice chases this season.
Mullins had better luck in the Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase as I Am Maximus recorded an impressive victory over some talented rivals.
The seven-year-old won the Irish Grand National at the same track earlier this year and may now be aimed at some lofty targets after this latest win.
“That’s a nice bonus on his last day as a novice,” Mullins said. “He’s a total character, as you could see from his early days racing.
“Paul (Townend) gave him a great ride in the Irish National and Jody (McGarvey) gets on well with him and gave him a super ride there. He looks a class horse now rather than a handicapper, so maybe we’ll have to make different plans for him now.
“We were hoping he’d have a chance over the trip and the fact that it was his last day as a novice to give him the opportunity. He’s clearly improved from last year and obviously shows a liking for Fairyhouse.
“This year, we were maybe looking at going for the English National and whether we change and go for Grade One races now – I’m not sure. We’ll have to have a word with Frank (Berry, racing manager) and JP (McManus, owner) and see what they want to do.”
The Mullins stable was also on target in the closing bumper race, with jockey Patrick Mullins delivering Petit Secret with a well-timed run to pip Bleu De Vassy on the line.
Mullins’ only other winner at the meeting was on the opening day, as Risk Belle recorded a stylish victory in Grade 3 WillowWarm Hurdle.
The horse finished third in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last season, before finishing sixth in a hot handicap at the Punchestown Festival.
Risk Belle showed plenty of determination under jockey Mark Walsh to kick off her season with a win, powering clear on the run-in for a three-and-a-half lengths success.
“I was very pleased with that performance and think she has improved nicely from last season,” Mullins added. “She jumped well and Mark was very happy that she was going well all the way.
“Her handicap experience would have been a benefit to her and she likes this track, too.”