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Sharjah strikes first for team Mullins in title race

3 minute read

The veteran Sharjah provided trainer Willie Mullins with the first strike in the British trainers’ title race when landing CPMS Novices' Champion Handicap Chase at Ayr.

Trainer : Willie Mullins.
Trainer : Willie Mullins. Picture: AAP Image

The popular multiple Grade 1 winning hurdler was ridden with notable restraint on his attempt over the three-mile trip but Townend soon began to make stealthy headway as the field set out on their final circuit.

Sharjah struck the front with a good jump at the second last and although a far from fluent leap at the final flight would have caused a nervy moment for backers of the 7/1 chance, Townend kept the partnership intact and the eleven-year-old stayed on strongly to get the better of fellow Irish raider Ballycoose (11/1) by two-and-a-half lengths.

It was a first success at the Scottish venue for both trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Paul Townend.

"He's been a star of a horse," said Townend on ITV Racing. "I remember riding him in his beginners' chase and just feeling it really lit up the fire in his belly again. He loves jumping fences.

"He nearly got brought down at the first, but it didn't scare him and we hoped going out in trip in a handicap at three-mile pace he'd find it easy and he did but he had to dig in at the end. He's a brilliant horse."

Just thirty-five minutes on from Sharjah's success, Willie Mullins and Paul Townend once again looked set to return to the winners' enclosure as their 9/1 chance Bialystok hit a staggering 1.07 in running before being outpointed late on by a rallying Favour And Fortune in the Scottish Champion Hurdle.

The Alan King-trained novice battled back bravely to land the spoils by half a length, although Mullins would stretch his lead at the top of the British trainers' championship with the runner-up earning a valuable £21,200.

Tom Cannon said on ITV Racing: "I had a dream run through the race and got there a bit sooner than I'd have liked. He was very gutsy off the back of the last and we've been saying all year he'll be better on better ground and so it proved.

"I couldn't believe how well I was going but he missed the third last and I had to give him a squeeze and he picked up straight away. It was a very good performance."

Willie Mullins was cut to 1/6 for the trainers' title by bookmakers Paddy Power, with Dan Skelton now a 9/2 shot to lift the prize.

Racing and Sports

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