Willie Mullins struck gold with his very first runner at Market Rasen as Panic Attack made a hugely impressive debut in the Alan Swinbank Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
The daughter of Canford Cliffs had been due to start her career at Cheltenham earlier in the campaign, only to be balloted out having already made the trip across the Irish Sea.
Pitched in at Listed level for her second trip to Britain, Panic Attack was the 5-2 favourite in the hands of Irish champion jockey Paul Townend – and it was certainly worth the journey for both horse and jockey.
After being settled in behind the pacesetters for much of the extended two-mile contest, the four-year-old travelled powerfully to the lead early in the home straight before powering clear of her toiling rivals.
Panic Attack passed the post 10 lengths clear without being asked for maximum effort, with fellow Irish challenger The Getaway Star filling the runner-up spot under Tom Queally, who will forever be linked with the great Frankel.
Mullins did not travel to Lincolnshire, but told the PA news agency: “She was very impressive. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but she’d done good work at home and I was hoping she’d run well.
“Running against more experienced mares on that sort of ground, I was worried she might come up a bit short, but she was very good.”
Sky Bet slashed Panic Attack to 8-1 for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, making her joint-favourite with Joseph O’Brien’s Eric Bloodaxe.
Mullins admitted that Grade One contest, which he has won on a record nine occasions, will now come under consideration.
He added: “I’ll have a chat with the owners. They were keen to go to Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, but unfortunately she was balloted out. They were keen to run today and it looks like it was a good idea.
“If she was to run in Cheltenham, I doubt I’d run her between now and then.”
Townend said: “I ended up at the front for longer and much sooner than I wanted to be, but she’s cut through there with ease.
“She did it well in the end, it wasn’t a badly-run race which is a big help to me. She’s got a lovely future.
“The ground is better than we have in Ireland at the moment, it’s a lot quicker and she’d no worries with that. Today was the plan, so far anyway, but hopefully she’ll go on to much better things.”
Queally was riding The Getaway Star for his father, Declan, having had a winner over hurdles at Tramore on New Year’s Day.
He said: “It’s possible that I would (have more rides over jumps), it depends on what the lads bring over, but we’re happy with the mare. She ran well, black type now, job done.
“It rode like a good race, I’d say the first four are all decent animals from the way it rode, so we’ll see what they do next.”