Irish runners enjoyed a fine evening at Auteuil on Saturday, with Willie Mullins striking through Bapaume and Ross O’Sullivan enjoying a famous success with his mare Baie Des Illes.
Mullins was adding to his fine record in the Grade Two Prix La Barka courtesy of the impressive Bapaume.
The Closutton maestro, who earlier this week celebrated the 3,000th winner of his remarkable training career, had claimed the Grade Two prize four times in the last few years, with dual winner Thousand Stars (2012 and 2014), Un De Sceaux (2016) and Shaneshill (2017) all on the roll of honour.
Second in the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil last time out, the Rich Ricci-owned five-year-old Bapaume came into it strongly turning for home in the hands of Paul Townend.
He jumped two out full of running and ran right away at the finish, beating Le Grand Luce and Izzo with plenty in hand.
Mullins told At The Races: “He improved a lot, that was a big performance for a five-year-old to come over here having run three and a quarter miles three weeks ago, and to travel over and back again.
“He’ll improve again next year. He’s got a nice prize there and we’ll look forward to next season, any race from two and a half miles up.”
Stablemate Shaneshill was defending his Barka crown, but over a shorter trip and later in the year and could not get in a real blow, finishing eighth, one place ahead of Yorkhill, who jumped to his left in the early stages.
Mullins went on: “Asthuria (sixth) ran well, she just got very tired in the last 150 yards. Shaneshill, Yorkhill and Bleu Berry all disappointed. That’s the way it goes, back to the drawing board for all of those.”
Last seen finishing 12th in the Grand National at Aintree, Baie Des Iles was a first runner for O’Sullivan at the Paris track and he was thrilled with his seven-year-old, who was guided to victory by Townend in the Grade Two Prix des Drags.
He said: “We’re in shock! On the first circuit we were scratching our heads as it didn’t look like she was going, then she just jumped into it, got into a lovely rhythm and Paul gave her a great ride.
“It’s magic, a fairytale – I can’t believe it.”
He added: “She stayed really well and she has won around here before, it’s horses for courses I suppose. When she decides she’s enjoying it, she can be very good.
“The National was the plan at the start of the season, but she did get her vaccinations for France for if we carried on after the National and she’d only had four runs all season.
“I’ve only been here once before with Katie (Walsh, wife and assistant) when she was riding Thousand Stars and to have your first winner with you first runner – we were only here to enjoy the experience and see what happened.
Mullins was earlier out of luck in the Prix Questarabad, where Stormy Ireland led the field for a long way under Danny Mullins, but ultimately had no answer to Master Dino and Tunis, with the James Rveley-ridden Master Dino coming out on top.
Mullins’ other runner, Saglawy, was fifth.