Wicklow Brave will try to add a top-level triumph over fences to his record after he claimed a facile Grade Three victory in the Guinness Open Gate Brewery Novice Chase on day four at the Galway Festival.
Now a 10-year-old, Wicklow Brave has been a fantastic servant for owner Nick Peacock and trainer Willie Mullins, counting an Irish St Leger and Punchestown Champion Hurdle among his 15 career victories.
He made his belated chase debut at Ballinrobe back in May and put that experience to good use in this two-and-a-quarter-mile contest, with his task eased considerably as stablemate and main market rival Robin De Carlow was pulled up after jumping just one fence.
The even-money favourite was well in control coming to the final two fences and not stopping on the run for home, triumphing by six lengths for Paul Townend.
Mullins said: “He is unique and has won bumpers, on the Flat, over hurdles and chases – Nick said he’d love to win a Grade One chase, so the obvious thing is to go for the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse in early December with him.
“He was very slick over his fences and Paul said he has a lot more respect for fences than hurdles. At one or two of the fences, he said if they were hurdles, he would have landed in the middle of them.
“He is so versatile and is himself at home – we only do what Wicklow wants to do and he is so laid-back.
“We have got used to him and he has got used to us at this stage, but I don’t think anyone queues up to ride him out in the morning – he is getting more unique as he grows older.
“I don’t know if any horse has done it before, but we’d like win a Group One on the Flat, over hurdle and now over fences – if any horse has, it was a long, long time ago.”
Mullins enjoyed another two winners on the day, and paid tribute to the team behind the scenes at his Closutton yard.
Mullins missed Royal Ascot after undergoing what owner Rich Ricci described as a “small procedure”, but was a welcome sight back on the racecourse this week.
With seven winners in the bag after four days at Ballybrit, Mullins was fulsome in his praise for son Patrick, assistant David Casey and recently-retired stable jockey Ruby Walsh, who all had a hand in determining the yard’s strategy.
He said: “I’ve got a great team at home. When I was laid up there a few weeks ago, between Patrick, David Casey and Ruby, I just said to them to put a team together for Galway. Obviously they did something right, so I’ll have to thank them hugely.
“All my owners I also have to thank and they mapped out all the races for the horses to run in. We worked them and they more or less picked the races in which they run in as well.
“They didn’t do too bad, so a big thanks to them from myself and (wife) Jackie.”