|Japanese target for Blackstairmountain
Willie Mullins has grand plans for Blackstairmountain with a valuable target in the far east later this season after the 4/7 shot took the McCarthy Insurance Group in workmanlike fashion.
The versatile gelding, a Grade 1 winner both over hurdles and fences, scored twice on the Flat last summer and brought his career tally to ten wins in this two-mile event.
Tactics often play a major role in small field events and, with just five going to post in the absence of both Joxer (sore back) and Bombadero (stone bruise), Fosters Cross set a searching pace.
Davy Condon built up a sizeable lead on the veteran before halfway, and still held a clear advantage early in the straight.
However the”jolly” and Arnaud, who made a costly blunder three out, reeled him in by the last and Blackstairmountain soon struck the front to beat Arnaud (4/1) by three quarters of a length. Foster Cross (13/2) was a gallant length and three quarters further back in third.
Mullins said, "“We’ll keep it to those type of races with him until the ground gets better. We’re going to aim him at the Nakayama Grand Jump in Japan in April.
“The ground conditions over there will suit him and he’s a Grade 1 horse. He’s the only one I have for the race, although it will be quite costly to send him out there.”
Townend said, “He was the horse to beat but was made work. The ground was probably a bit dead for him.”
Additional reporting by Thomas Weekes
|leopardstown 3rd Mar
Sat 2nd Mar 2013, 14:10
Blackstairmountain has his final start befoe heading to Japan in the Ballsbridge Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old is being aimed at the Nakayama Grand Jump in April and, following his victory at Cork in January, he is likely to be a warm order to head to the Far East on the back of a victory.
High-class chaser Noble Prince is an interesting contender as he drops in class for his return to hurdles, while Forpadydeplasterer continues his Grand National preparations in the 14-runner contest.
The feature event of the afternoon is the Carrickmines Handicap Chase, in which Kakagh bids to give Bill Harney back-to-back wins in the race.
The County Tipperary handler landed the valuable prize 12 months ago with Leanne and his representative this year arrives on the back of a good second over 3m at Thurles.
Arthur Moore, who has won the race twice in the last five years, has strong claims again courtesy of the in-form Fever Pitch, while Tony Martin's King Of The Refs has been knocking on the door and looks potentially well treated as he drops 2lb for this assignment.
Action gets under way at 2.10 with the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Maiden Hurdle and Grey Monk bids to make it third time lucky under NH rules in the opener, while a fascinating bumper closes the card.
The Killiney (Pro/Am) Flat Race features two Aidan O'Brien runners, Egyptian Warrior and Shield, while Grecian TIger attempts to defy a penalty following his Naas debut success.
Dylan Ross found the step up to Grade One company too much at Christmas but should be more at home in the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Novice Chase.
However, the progressive Rupert Lamb, who scored over this course and distance last time out, and Cootamundra, who has been highly tried, will certainly be no pushovers.
|Blackstairmountain arrives in Japan
Sun 17th Mar 2013, 12:15
Willie Mullins' Blackstairmountain has arrived in Japan ahead of his intended run in next month's Nakayama Grand Jump.
While Mullins' focus was firmly on events at Cheltenham, his eight year old was en route to Japan and touched down at Narita International Airport east of Tokyo on Wednesday before being transferred to the Shiroi Quarantine Center at the JRA Horseracing School.
Groom Diarmuid Keeling said everything was in order and the 8-year-old had traveled well. "It was a long journey but there's nothing special amiss. He looks fine and I'm relieved.
"I haven't been given any special instructions from the trainer, but we will be in touch every day and decide things as we go."
Keeling did tell japanracing.jp that no hard work was in the books while at the quarantine facilities. "We'll wait until just before the Pegasus Jump Stakes for that."
That contest is run over a trip around two miles and a furlong on March 23rd and will be used as a prep before the ultimate target of the two mile five furlong Nakayama Grand Jump on April 13th.
The Grand Jump, which takes horses over 12 obstacles, carries a total value in excess of £900,000, with £450,000 going to the winner. The Pegasus Jump Stakes also consists of 11 obstacles and is worth a total in excess of £215,000.
It will be the first time since 2010 for a horse from overseas to enter the Pegasus Jump Stakes. In 2010, Pentiffic took part and finished fifth in a field of 13 but didn't then contest the Grand Jump.
|Walsh happy with Blackstair
Fri 22nd Mar 2013, 14:35
Jockey Ruby Walsh reports Blackstairmountain in top order as they bid for glory in Saturday's Pegasus Jump Stakes at Nakayama racecourse in Japan.
Willie Mullins' eight-year-old is the sole foreign raider in the two-mile-one-furlong race after warming up for his trip with a hurdles outing at Leopardstown earlier this month.
A Grade One winner over fences in 2011, Blackstairmountain has not run in a chase since finishing third in the Galway Plate last August, with Mullins switching to hurdles for his Japanese preparation.
Walsh has made the trip to the Far East to ride Mullins' charge, who will start from the outside in 12 as the race is started from stalls.
"He's close to his best condition," Walsh told www.japanracing.jp.
"Although not strongly, we did five laps on the dirt course. He enjoyed the exercise and felt very good.
"It's been two weeks since the last time I rode him and he's in the same good form."
Blackstairmountain faces 12 rivals in the Grade Three contest, with Sanrei Duke and Irish-bred Rendir among the best of those. The race is usually seen as a prep for the world's richest steeplechase, the Nakayama Grand Jump, back at the track next month.
Blackstair well beaten in Japan Sat 23rd Mar 2013, 11:02
Blackstairmountain could finish only ninth in Saturday's Pegasus Jump Stakes at Nakayama racecourse in Japan.
Ruby Walsh made the trip to the Far East to partner Willie Mullins' charge in the two-mile-one-furlong event, but he was down the field from the off.
The eight-year-old, who was a Grade One winner in 2011, was in the rear for much of the race and only made up ground late in the day, eventually beating just three horses home.
Rikiai Kurofune claimed the prize by four lengths from local favourite Smart Stage, with the Irish-bred Rendir a further eight lengths back in third.
|Blackstair has further business in Japan
Sat 30th Mar 2013, 10:10
Ruby Walsh is anticipating an improved performance from Blackstairmountain in next month's Nakayama Grand Jump in Japan.
The eight-year-old had his first taste of Japanese racing when unplaced in the Pegasus Jump Stakes at Nakayama last Saturday, but Walsh believes the experience should stand him in good stead for the April 13 feature.
Blackstairmountain will also be stepping up half a mile in trip to two miles and five furlongs, another factor Walsh counts in the favour of Willie Mullins' charge.
He told the Irish Examiner: "The race was a real education, with Blackstairmountain only managing to finish ninth of the 12 finishers.
"It was so different to what we are used to that I'd say Sprinter Sacre would definitely get beaten at the first time of asking at Nakayama.
"We started from stalls and I had a bad draw in 12. We went like the hammers of hell throughout, on ground I would describe as green tarmac.
"The fences were soft and jumping through them, rather than over, was the right way to do things. But Blackstairmountain wasn't used to that and lost ground at the second and third obstacles.
"It was sheer speed from start to finish and was a bit like riding over seven furlongs at Laytown. Blackstairmountain is still in Japan, supervised by Emmet Mullins, and runs in a £600,000 to the winner race there in a couple of weeks.
"If I survive the Aintree Grand National next Saturday, then I'll be returning to Tokyo a few days later to ride the horse again.I am looking forward to it big-time. He will be stepping up in trip and, on this occasion, we'll know what to expect."
|Blackstair books Japan ticket
Paul Townend timed it to perfection to get Blackstairmountain back to winning ways in the McCarthy Insurance Group Hurdle at Cork.
A Grade One winner over timber as a novice, he also reached the same heights over fences last season but tends to struggle against the best when the mud is flying, so Willie Mullins is now eyeing up a race in Japan.
Fosters Cross made sure it was a real test and Davy Condon was allowed an easy lead in front, with his advantage still around 10 lengths turning into the long home straight.
Blackstairmountain (4-7 favourite) began to eat into his lead after the third-last and as the leader tired, Townend pounced and even Arnaud passed Fosters Cross in the end with the favourite winning by three-quarters of a length.
"We'll keep it to those type of races with him until the ground gets better. We're going to aim him at the Nakayama Grand Jump in Japan in April," said Mullins, who went on to land a treble.
"The ground conditions over there will suit him and he's a Grade One horse. He's the only one I have for the race, although it will be quite costly to send him out there."
Townend added: "He was the horse to beat but was made to work. The ground was probably a bit dead for him."
Fosters Cross on top with Blackstair second> By James Burn 2:46PM 3 MAR 2013 Report: Leopardstown, Sunday Ballsbridge Hurdle 2m2f, 5yo+
FOSTERS CROSS produced an impressive performance to upset 6-5 favourite Blackstairmountain in the Ballsbridge Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Sent off a 10-1 chance, the Tom Mullins-trained Fosters Cross kept track of longtime leader Mount Colah and eased clear of him turning for home.
The rest of the 14-runner field - which included 2009 Arkle winner Forpadydeplasterer and 2011 Jewson victor Noble Prince - failed to get involved and Blackstairmountain, trained by Mullins' brother Willie, was left to give chase.
However, he never looked like getting to the Paul Townend-ridden winner who finished 12 lengths clear. Pageboy was third at 11-2.
There are no immediate plans for Fosters Cross, who is owned by Patrick O'Donovan.
Mullins said: "The pacemaker certainly made it easier for him, he just got away from them and that was that.
"We might stretch him out in trip a bit in future. He'll go for a small race at Fairyhouse or Punchestown, he'll get a break and his main target will be something at Galway."
Blackstairmountain does have an interesting engagement on his agenda as he will head out to Japan in the next few weeks for the Nakayama Grand Jump on April 13, while sixth-placed Forpadydeplasterer could go for the Grand National, which he is 66-1 for.
|Mullins chases Pegasus glory with Blackstair
By Peter Scargill 7:09PM 22 MAR 2013
Preview: Japan, Saturday 5am GMT
Nakayama: Pegasus Jump Stakes 2m1f, 4yo+
BLACKSTAIRMOUNTAIN (Ruby Walsh) attempts to add futher lustre to a memorable season for trainer Willie Mullins as he takes on 12 rivals in this valuable contest.
Worth £200,000, with just over £105,000 going to the winner, the Pegasus Jump consists of 12 obstacles and, unusually for a jumps race, is started from stalls.
The Pegasus Jump Stakes is being used as a warm up for Blackstairmountain before a shot at the £940,000 Nakayama Grand Jump on April 13.
Ruby Walsh partnered Blackstairmountain in his exercise on Friday and told japanracing.jp: "He's close to his best condition. Although not strongly, we did five laps on the dirt course today. He enjoyed the exercise and felt very good.
"It's been two weeks since the last time I rode him and he's in the same good form. We'll take him out on the dirt course tomorrow morning to do some light work."
|Blackstair brushed aside by Nakayama rivals
Report: Japan, Saturday Nakayama: Pegasus Jump Stakes (Chase) 2m1f, turf, 4yo+THE Willie Mullins-trained Blackstairmountain and Ruby Walsh could finish only ninth in the Pegasus Jump, the designated trial for the Nakayama Grand Jump.
The 29 million yen (about £200,000) contest was won by 6-1 shot Rikiai Kurofune (Tsuyoshi Tanaka/Mitsuko Kaneko), who scored by four lengths over the favourite Smart Stage after hitting the front in the final furlong.
A Grade 1 winner over hurdles at Punchestown in 2010, Susannah Ricci's Blackstairmountain was sent off at 4.3-1 chance for the Pegasus Jump, which begins from a set of starting stalls.
Drawn 12 of 13, the Irish visitor ambled out of the blocks as the locals sped away, leaving him towards the rear from the outset. He raced wide thereafter, jumping big and bold over series of obstacles that were rather less formidable than they looked, easily brushed aside by the majority of Blackstairmountain's opponents. Never a factor, Blackstairmountain stayed on past a couple of languishing rivals in the straight.
Worth a total of 135 million yen, the Nakayama Grand Jump takes place on April 13.
|Mullins hoping Blackstairmountain can deliver glory in Japan
Brian O'Connor Sat, Apr 13, 2013, 07:00
Willie Mullins is set to break though the €3 million prizemoney mark for the Irish season this weekend and the champion trainer also has ambitions on a monster €550,000 first prize in Japan this morning with Blackstairmountain.
The Grade One-winning hurdler and chaser lines up for the Nakayama Grand Jump over almost two and three-quarter miles with Ruby Walsh again on board after the partnership had an unsuccessful first experience of Japanese racing last month.
Blackstairmountain could finish only ninth at the Nakayama track outside Tokyo but Emmett Mullins, who has been supervising the horse’s preparation in Japan for the last number of weeks, is hopeful that experience will pay off now.
“The fences are a lot like the French hedges, kind of a mound of earth and big bushes coming out, a bit like the cross-country at Cheltenham. They’re very big, but soft, and they seem to hurdle them very quickly over here which we weren’t used to the first day but he's schooled well since,” said the trainer’s nephew.
A 16-strong field are due off at 7.40 this morning with Blackstairmountain the only overseas challenger. Just two such horses have ever successfully plundered the Grand Jump, including the Australian star Karasi who completed a hat-trick between 2005-07.
Ger Lyons brings Lily’s Angel as far as Kempton for a Listed race today but is hopeful she will defy topweight.
“She’ll appreciate the surface at Kempton, she’s in good order and I would’t be going over there if I didn’t think she had a big chance,” said Lyons yesterday.
“The ratings don’t mean a lot with fillies as they have to turn up and do it on the day, but if the ratings are right and she does run up to her best, she should be hard to beat.”
Willie Mullins is less than €3,000 off the €3 million prizemoney mark in Ireland and the first prize in the opening maiden hurdle at Tramore today will cover that if Dougal Philps bounces back from a disappointing effort in the Lincoln. The evidence of ten starts over fences suggests Fiery Oscar is better over hurdles but he’s in the form of his life and is rated leniently enough on that to win the handicap chase.