Jayarebe ran out a most impressive winner of the bet365 Feilden Stakes at Newmarket for Brian Meehan and Sean Levey.

Only seen twice last season, he won on his debut on the July course and was then stepped markedly up in class for the Group One Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at ParisLongchamp on Arc weekend.

Only seventh behind Richard Hannon’s Rosallion there, he took a major leap forward on this occasion.

Never far from the firing line, Levey kicked for home heading into the dip and having hit the front, he soon put daylight between himself and his rivals.

Aidan O’Brien’s Gasper De Lemos briefly looked a threat before fading, while Andre Fabre’s Narkez never looked like playing a part in the finish.

It was the Richard Hughes-trained Whip Cracker who chased home the 11-1 winner, another who was close to the pace throughout, but he was beaten three and a quarter lengths.

“In three runs, he’s won here at Newmarket twice, once on the July Course and now the Rowley Mile – he’s a lovely horse,” said Meehan.

“He’s seen that out really well and pedigree-wise you would imagine a mile and a quarter would be the limit of his stamina, but he looked very good there.

“I liked the way he did it today, especially the way he came up the hill. He was always impressive last year and he has been doing well throughout the spring.

“He’s a lovely horse and I think if he would have been over a mile in the Lagardere, he would have probably run a bit better, but the form is really good.

“He was only six lengths behind Rosallion and that was seven furlongs, whereas today was a mile and one and, as always, there is natural improvement over the winter with these two to three-year-olds. The bare form is pretty good for a Listed race.

“The owner is away and back next week, so I’ll go and meet him and see what we’re going to do. He’s possibly a French Derby type, but he’s also a horse that might benefit for a bit more of a subtle touch for a while.

“The mile and a quarter race at Ascot would be a race to consider and there is a whole summer ahead of us and there’s plenty of time.”

Karl Burke’s leading Qipco 1000 Guineas hope Fallen Angel was one of a host of classy three-year-olds in action on the Rowley Mile before racing at Newmarket on Wednesday.

The Moyglare Stud Stakes winner is amongst the market leaders for the first Classic of the season and Burke was very happy with what he saw.

“I was very happy with her and Danny (Tudhope) was delighted,” said Burke.

“We’ve got two and a half weeks (before the 1000 Guineas) and she has time for at least one more good piece of work at home. This was always the plan and she needed the gallop for fitness, whereas Night Raider, we brought him here for experience.

“After watching that and what we saw last year, I think she has a good chance of staying at least a mile and a quarter. She is in the Oaks but we don’t need to worry about that just yet and we will concentrate on the Guineas for now.

“She’s a very good Group One winner at two, with not too many miles on the clock – and she’s unlucky not to be unbeaten.

“She’s a filly who saves her best for when she is really asked and as you saw in the Moyglare last year, she looked beat and then was doing her best work crossing the line. I think that will be the same in the Guineas.”

Advertising the strength in depth at his yard, Burke also galloped a live 2000 Guineas contender in the unbeaten Night Raider, two from two on the all-weather to date.

The son of Dark Angel galloped with the 113-rated Flight Plan, coming through the exercise with ease.

“We’ve run a few in the Guineas, Lord Shanakill was the first one I think and Flight Plan ran in it with Holloway Boy last year, but we’re going there with two live chances this year, I think,” said Burke.

“The filly is obviously the stronger chance, whereas the colt is a very good horse, but inexperience could count against him. He’s a lovely horse going forward and physically and mentally he will improve through the year.

“He will have learned loads today and that was his first proper gallop on grass. It will be interesting to see how Flight Plan runs next week (at Sandown) – and if he runs well, it might boost our confidence a bit.

“It’s a fantastic position to be in and we’re very fortunate we have the horses we’ve got at the moment. We’ve got some crackers and all the balloons are full at the moment.”

Also in action was the Owen Burrows-trained Alyanaabi, last seen finishing second behind 2000 Guineas favourite City Of Troy in the Dewhurst. He finished upsides an older stablemate.

Burrows said: “Jim (Crowley) said he settled well, which was good because he can be a little keen at home.

“Mentally, it will do him the world of good and hopefully he can step forward from it in two and a half weeks.

“Originally, I didn’t think I needed to bring him up here, but we were quite keen to get him on some nice ground and there’s not a lot of that around at the moment.

“Physically, he has done well and we have a bit to find (with City Of Troy), so we will just have to see. I’m happy physically with how he has done, so we will see, time will tell.”

Charlie Hills’ Champagne Stakes winner Iberian was another in action.

“He’s got huge form and his work on fast ground is completely different to that on soft at home and he’s never really had the chance to show his full potential last year,” said Hills.

“Every time he ran, it was soft ground and at Goodwood in his second race, he probably should have won that race, just the track and inexperience and the ground was soft there as well.

“The Champagne was soft as well and he’s gone and beat two Group One winners in that.

“The way he is bred, he should certainly get the mile but you just have to be careful with who he works with in the morning, as he just destroys them in two or three strides, he has so much natural speed.

“He just cantered the first furlong and I just wanted Tom (Marquand) to get a nice rhythm into him, he could be pretty special.”

Shouldvebeenaring is in “the form of his life” ahead of his bid to land another decisive Newmarket blow in the Connaught Access Flooring Abernant Stakes.

Richard Hannon’s four-year-old has been a real money-spinner for his owners Middleham Park Racing and claimed Listed honours on the Rowley Mile last spring in the King Charles II Stakes.

The most consistent of performers, the son of Havana Grey finished the season plying his trade in Group One company, beaten a neck in Haydock’s Sprint Cup before finishing off with a placed effort in the Prix de la Foret.

Having blown away the cobwebs on the all-weather at Wolverhampton last month, connections are now predicting an improved display over his optimum conditions, which they hope will tee-up further top-table outings later in the campaign.

“Six furlongs on decent ground in group company is probably him playing at home,” said Middleham Park’s Tim Palin.

“He’s won on the Rowley Mile before and Richard reports him to be in the form of his life and this has been the target ever since the Lady Wulfruna. We deliberately got an early call into him so we could get him fit and fresh for Thursday’s mission and hopefully he will run another big race.

“We rolled a few big dice with him last year and he never quite got his head in front at Group One level. But on a couple of occasions he threatened to be a Group One winner and hopefully he can be at some point in the future.

“He has a habit of going really well in competitive big-field races and it does look really competitive. Sean Levey gets on well with him and Richard thinks he has improved since last season, so we go there very hopeful.”

Commanche Falls finished second in this 12 months ago before going on to strike three times later in the summer.

The form of his Ascot second to Annaf last autumn was franked on the international stage and although trainer Michael Dods is unsure whether the seven-year-old will be primed to perfection for this Group Three event, the Darlington handler is looking forward to getting another campaign up and running.

“He looks ready for a run and it has been very difficult to get him ready with the bad weather up north and you have got to start somewhere,” explained Dods.

“We just want to get him started and he’ll improve for the run and come on for it and there will be plenty more races later on in the season. He is ready for a run though, so hopefully he runs well.

“He sort of wakes up later in the season and he’s quite a lazy worker at home, so it’s hard to have him fully wound up and he takes a bit of getting ready. He has to go to the races, otherwise we’d never get him fit.”

Getting the better of Commanche Falls in last year’s race was Charlie Hills’ Garrus, who like in 2023, will be partnered by leading rider Ryan Moore.

“I rode him when he won this race last season and he went on to run some good races in defeat,” the jockey told Betfair.

“This is his grade, though he was placed in the Group One Prix Maurice de Gheest a couple of years ago, so he has a solid chance once again.”

Karl Burke is poised to saddle two in the race, with Spycatcher and Marshman both on the team sheet for the Middleham handler.

The former twice hit the frame at the highest level last term and will be attempting to pick up from where he left off, while Marshman failed to build on some top juvenile form in a 2023 curtailed by injury, but returned in rude health when just touched off in Doncaster’s Cammidge Trophy last month.

“Spycatcher wouldn’t want any firm in the description, otherwise he’ll be out, but both horses are in great form,” said Burke.

“Marshman ran a great race at Doncaster and will improve a lot fitness-wise for that run. He handled the heavy ground that day, but it wouldn’t be his preferred choice and good ground over six furlongs should be ideal.

“He goes out in the hood every day at home, he’s always had that. As you could see at Doncaster, he travels very strongly and I think he needs to relax early to get home over the stiffer six furlongs at Newmarket. Cliff (Lee, jockey) was keen to put the hood on, so we’ll see what happens.”

Star mare Golden Ace returns to the scene of her finest hour attempting to remain unbeaten over hurdles in Cheltenham’s Changing Young Lives At Jamie’s Farm Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Jeremy Scott’s six-year-old hinted at her potential when second to Dysart Enos in a Grade Two Aintree bumper at the end of last season and since switching to hurdles has been flawless, giving her handler a maiden success at the Cheltenham Festival last month.

The form of that triumph was franked by the bloodless success of Gordon Elliott’s Brighterdaysahead at Aintree, with Golden Ace missing her own intended engagement on Merseyside due to a bruised foot.

However, she has recovered sufficiently for a step up in trip on her return to the Cotswolds and this Listed event looks the perfect spot for Golden Ace to finish the season on a real high.

Scott said: “I was very cross we weren’t able to run at Aintree but she seems absolutely fine now and we’ll go to Cheltenham and take our chance.

“On ratings she looks the best but who knows what the others have got up their sleeves.

“Gordon’s horse looked very impressive and that was up to two and a half miles and now we are as well. We will see how well, or not, we see the trip out. She won over two-miles-three and a bit at Taunton (earlier in the season), so I have every confidence she will get it, no problems at all.

“She’s a lovely mare and has been outstanding. We’re looking forward to another run, which will be good for experience and then we can hopefully put her away for next year.”

Dysart Enos may be missing from the line-up but Fergal O’Brien is still represented by Lilting Verse, while Henry Daly’s talented Wyenot, Dan Skelton’s Lightening Mahler and Ben Clarke’s consistent Ooh Betty are others arriving with good form to their name.

Meanwhile, it is Nicky Henderson who has won this race the last two years and with his Seven Barrows string back in form after a short spell in the doldrums, the Henry Ponsonby Racing team can look forward to Aston Martini’s outing in the Cotswolds with more optimism.

Aston Martini was last seen finishing fourth in graded action at Sandown and Liz Rutter, racing manager for the syndicate, said: “I think the ground at Sandown turned out to be far more testing than a lot of people were expecting, so she did well to finish fourth there.

“We are all delighted to see Nicky’s horses back on track and she’s in good form at home. But this is a hot race – the competition is very high – but there are not a lot of opportunities for these mares in novice company, so I think it is worth having a crack at.

“She’s not run at Cheltenham before but there is no reason why she won’t handle it and I think the ground will be lovely; it will be nice, beautiful ground. She’s a very good mover and she’s a very long-striding mare and I think she quite enjoys decent ground.

“She’s a lovely mare who we hope will keep improving, but this could be a tough ask.”

There is also Grade Two action on the card in the British EBF Mares’ Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase Final, where Mel Rowley’s Malaita looks to win on the card for the second year in a row.

A winner over hurdles at Prestbury Park’s April meeting 12 months ago, the eight-year-old has been a respectable performer since switching to fences this term and will be suited by drying conditions, having opened her account over the larger obstacles at Ludlow last month.

“She won at this meeting last year over hurdles and now needs to repeat the performance over the bigger obstacles,” said Rowley.

“She ran at Cheltenham earlier in the season and was running an absolute blinder before overjumping at the third last and she fell. It was just one of those where she was just jumping so enthusiastically, she forgot to put the landing gear out.

“We’ve put that to the back of our minds and since then she has gone out and won and is in really good form.

“She looks great and the ground won’t be a problem, as she would prefer a sounder surface anyway. We would be hopeful that would play to her strengths, rather than her weaknesses.”

Kikkuli ensured a notable family line and famous silks returned to the winner’s enclosure by claiming the Alex Scott Maiden Stakes at Newmarket in promising fashion.

The Harry Charlton colt, who is a half-brother of the great Frankel, shed his maiden tag with a gutsy performance during the seven-furlong contest in the green and pink colours of Juddmonte Farms in the hands of Ryan Moore.

He was placed in midfield for much of the race, where Manhattan Mirage flew into a huge lead but quickly weakened, before Moore found a gap for Kikkuli to power through.

Market leader Creative Story threatened to spoil the party by getting his nose in front at one point, but Kikkuli fought back to regain the lead and prevailed by a neck at 5-2, as he built on his encouraging debut last year with his first success.

“It’s wonderful to have him in the yard, but it comes with a little bit of added pressure. It means a lot to the family and a lot to racing,” Charlton told RacingTV about training Frankel’s half-sibling.

“We were hopeful we would see a similar performance to last year with that finish and I think with that final furlong, we saw that strength come through.

“There’s no immediate plan. Ryan said there is something in there but bide your time, he will be even better next year. No grand plans immediately but Ryan was hopeful we will get there one day.”

Ten Bob Tony (7-1) produced a fine one-length success in the bet365 EBF Conditions Stakes to complete a quickfire double for Ed Walker.

The three-year-old contested the lead with Bold Style on the near rail before the challenger moved two lengths clear. Ten Bob Tony then clawed back the advantage with two furlongs to go, as odds-on favourite Boiling Point made headway to try and dispute.

Roger Varian’s colt got to within half a length of the leading pair before jockey Tom Marquand judged the ride perfectly for Ten Bob Tony to finish strongly.

Walker hinted at a tilt at the Qipco 2000 Guineas, where his charge is now priced at 40-1 from 100-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power.

“He just showed a great attitude there, didn’t he?” Walker said. “Tom gave him a perfect ride and got the fractions right, and he hit the line really well.

“I think it has to be (targeting the 2000 Guineas). First horse for a new owner and the dream’s alive – and I think it has to be if he comes out of it well. He loves the track, so why not?”

Walker’s first triumph of the day came through 20-1 shot Hafeet Alain, who literally got his nose in front when it mattered most to land the Mutasaabeq New For 2024 Handicap.

Jockey Saffie Osborne was off the bridle with three furlongs left as Hafeet Alain swooped to the outside and started to gain on the challengers, getting ahead of Majestic inside the final 200 metres.

He battled gamely to move clear but Dutch Decoy was powering home and was a touch unlucky to be beaten by a nose, with Daysofourlives and Theoryofeverything close behind in third and fourth respectively.

“He’s a star,” Walker said of Hafeet Alain. “Last season, he had a great season and he just loves his racing, he is so game. He’s such a game horse, he’s a legend. A real yard favourite.”

Arran ensured Paul and Oliver Cole remained unbeaten with their juveniles so far this season by claiming the British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes.

The colt – sired by Havana Grey – grabbed the early lead, which he never relinquished.

He held off a late charge from The Actor to win by a neck at 6-1 for the Coles’ second success with two-year-old runners this campaign. Hallasan, who is by multiple Group One winner Pinatubo and went off as market leader, finished in third.

Hugo Palmer got his first winner on the turf this season as Watcha Matey powered to a two-and-a-quarter-length victory in the JRA Handicap.

The three-year-old was prominent throughout the mile contest and did not panic when the aptly-named Crown Estate hit the front three furlongs out in the Royal colours.

However, that runner quickly weakened, leaving Watcha Matey, The Camden Colt and The Ice Phoenix battling for the lead in the closing stages, before the eventual winner kicked on for a convincing triumph.

Tees Spirit (10-1) ran out a good winner under the guidance of Mia Nicholls in the It’s Never Ordinary At bet365 Handicap.

The six-year-old, who had placed just once since his last win in August 2022, established an early lead on the far rail and was three lengths clear by the time they hit the halfway mark in the five-furlong race.

He weakened and drifted inside late on, but still crossed the line one and three-quarter lengths ahead of the strong-finishing Navello.

Britain’s oldest professional jockey Jimmy Quinn has confirmed his intention to continue riding until the end of the season, having initially planned to announce his retirement at Newmarket on Tuesday.

The 56-year-old has enjoyed multiple big-race victories during a 40-year career, most notably making the most of his light weight when coming in for the ride aboard John Best’s rapid two-year-old Kingsgate Native, who provided him with a first Group One victory in the 2007 Nunthorpe Stakes at York.

With the Charlie Hills-trained Bodorgan his only booked ride at this year’s Craven meeting, Quinn felt the time had come to call it a day, but he has now been persuaded to carry on for the rest of the year.

“It (licence) runs out today and word got out on the street pretty quick (regarding the planned retirement),” he told Racing TV.

“I got a few phone calls, positive ones from senior riders and other people riding, and one of them said ‘why are you packing up at the start of the season, why not ride for a bit longer in the summer?’

“I’m going to reapply for my licence again and ride until probably the end of the season on the turf and then say thank you very much.

“I’ve had a lot of support over the years and I’ve had a few good phone calls to say keep going with it. I have no weight issues, I’m pretty fit and ride out every day.

“Even if I get 20 rides between now and then, it’s 20 rides. I enjoy it a lot still, it’s a great job and it keeps you young. It keeps you active and gives you something to aim at every day.”

In Excelsis Deo will not be winning out of turn if he can belatedly open his account for the season in the Matt Hampson Foundation Silver Trophy Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.

Although winless since making a successful British and chasing debut for Harry Fry at Hereford in December 2022, the JP McManus-owned six-year-old has run several good races in defeat and his trainer feels he is due a change of fortune.

Placed on his first two starts of the current campaign at Cheltenham, the Saddex gelding may well have secured top honours on his next appearance at Sandown but for unseating Jonathan Burke at the final fence.

He then did well to finish as close as he did when fifth at the Cheltenham Festival last month after being hampered by a faller four fences from home.

Fry feels In Excelsis Deo has more than enough ability to claim victory in Wednesday’s Grade Two feature if getting the rub of the green.

“He bumped into Madara in December, who then went and won at the Dublin Racing Festival, and we obviously unseated when with every chance at the last at Sandown on his next run,” said the trainer.

“I think it’s fair to say he hasn’t necessarily had luck on his side or the rub of the green this season, but he’s been running well in defeat and, with a bit of luck in running, hopefully he won’t be too far away in this.

“Hopefully he can put it all together and he’ll be in there with every chance.”

The title-chasing pair of Dan Skelton and Paul Nicholls are both represented in the £70,000 contest, with Skelton saddling Sail Away and Nicholls running course-and-distance winner Il Ridoto.

Sail Away returns to handicap company after finishing last of four in the Grade One Ascot Chase, while Il Ridoto has been placed in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, the December Gold Cup and on Festival Trials day at Cheltenham this season, but could finish only eighth in the Plate on his latest visit.

“He’s a standing dish at Cheltenham and usually runs very well in these two-and-a-half-mile handicaps,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“It didn’t quite happen for him last time at the Festival, when he was towards the rear in the early stages before staying on at the finish. He has his chance, but is probably still on a stiff enough handicap mark.”

Scarface has won three of his last four starts over fences for Joe Tizzard and faces a rise in class.

Tizzard said: “He’s done nothing wrong and we were tempted to wait for Sandown next week, but the forecast is drying out all the time and we thought we’d have a go here.

“It’s a step up, but he’s in cracking form and he’s on the upgrade.”

Roger Varian’s True Cyan will be put to the test in the Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket on Wednesday.

The grey is a daughter of No Nay Never and the smart mare Realtra, a multiple Group winner who was also trained at Carlburg Stables by Varian.

True Cyan has run once to date, competing in a seven-furlong maiden on the Rowley Mile last September and prevailing by a length and a half.

She now returns to the same course and distance but at Group Three level to test her credentials in the Nell Gwynn, a race that can often serve as a trial to the various 1000 Guineas contests in Europe.

“She won her maiden well on the same track last autumn, we’re really on a mission to find out where we might go with her and what we might do this season,” said Chris Wall, racing manager to owner Shaikh Khalid’s KHK Racing organisation.

“It looks a good opportunity to do that, it’s a competitive race and depending on how we run, we’ll know what we’re going to do in the future.

“She’s wintered well, she’s been training satisfactorily, we’re hopeful of a positive effort and then we’ll take it from there.”

There are proven Group performers in the race in Matrika and Dance Sequence and those horses will act as good yardsticks for True Cyan as connections seek to understand her calibre.

“If you’re going to be stakes class, you’ll have to be up there competing with them – and if not, we’ll have to go down another route with her,” Wall said.

“We’ll see, we’ll know a lot more after her run tomorrow but she’s done everything in the right way and has been training nicely, we’re hoping for a nice run.”

Godolphin and Charlie Appleby’s Dance Sequence heads the market at present.

A winner of a July Course maiden last summer, the Dubawi filly then contested the Oh So Sharp over the Nell Gwyn course and distance and prevailed again.

That latter run was at Group Three level and the three-year-old now returns to start her season at the same grade.

“Dance Sequence has done very well over the winter,” Appleby said on the Godolphin website.

“She has already won over the course and distance in the Oh So Sharp Stakes and looks the one to beat again.”

Aidan O’Brien is represented in the race by Matrika, another daughter of No Nay Never who steps up to seven furlongs having last been seen winning the Group Two Airlie Stud Stakes at the Curragh.

Prior to that, she won her maiden and was second in the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot when coming home a length behind subsequent Cheveley Park heroine Porta Fortuna.

Ryan Moore takes the ride and told Betfair: “Dance Sequence has looked pretty good in winning in both her starts, including the Oh So Sharp Stakes, but I don’t think my filly is far behind her, if at all.

“Her only defeat came in the Albany at Royal Ascot, when second to the subsequent Cheveley Park winner and Breeders’ Cup runner-up Porta Fortuna, and she did it well for me in a Group Two at the Curragh subsequently.

“We didn’t see her after that win in July but the fact that she is here speaks for itself, Aidan has his horses in very good nick and, while she has plenty of speed, I’d have thought she will get the extra furlong here OK.

“But there are a few promising horses in this, and this certainly isn’t a straight match between us and the Godolphin horse, for all Dance Sequence is the hot favourite in here, I see.”

Elsewhere in the race is John and Thady Gosden’s Spiritual, fourth in the Rockfel on her last outing of 2023, with Richard Fahey’s Dubawi filly Pretty Crystal entered after collecting a Group Three placing last term.

Andre Fabre expects to have a clearer idea of how far Narkez can go this season after he contests the bet365 Feilden Stakes at Newmarket.

An impressive winner on his third and final juvenile start at Clairefontaine in the autumn, the Siyouni colt picked up where he left off with another dominant display on his Saint-Cloud comeback in March.

Fabre saddled subsequent French Derby hero Intello to win the Feilden Stakes in 2013 and Narkez could earn himself a shot at the Chantilly Classic if he can pass Wednesday’s Listed test on the Rowley Mile.

“The distance should suit him with the extra furlong (nine furlongs) as he is from a family of middle-distance horses, and obviously he’s in good shape,” said the trainer.

“I want to see how he does it because he won easily last time, beating not much, so this will be a good experience for him.

“If he does well, he’s more of a mile-and-a-quarter horse, so the Prix du Jockey Club would be a long-term target for him, but I’ll be wiser after the race.”

Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore team up with Curragh maiden winner Gasper De Lemos, who makes his first appearance since filling the runner-up spot behind Charlie Appleby’s potential Derby candidate Arabian Crown in Newmarket’s Zetland Stakes in October.

“We had four in here at the five-day stage and we rely on Gasper De Lemos,” Moore told Betfair.

“After a promising debut, this Justify colt won his maiden in very good style at the Curragh before finishing second to what looked a smart horse in Arabian Crown in the Zetland here.

“We are happy with him coming into this race but he will be suited by further down the line and I am always wary of an Andre Fabre horse, and his Narkez won very well on his return. And there are clearly others with claims, too.”

Appleby is represented by El Cordobes, who switches to the turf for the first time after comfortably opening his account on his second all-weather start at Kempton in January.

Speaking on the Godolphin website, Appleby said: “I’ve been happy with El Cordobes going into this. Like a lot of runners at this time of year, we will be hoping to establish what kind of level we are looking at for the season ahead, but he has done well physically since winning in January.”

James Fanshawe’s Autumn Stakes third Ambiente Friendly and Richard Fahey’s Native American, last seen finishing sixth behind the Richard Hannon-trained Rosallion in the Group One Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on Arc weekend at ParisLongchamp, are also in the mix for what promises to be an informative contest.

John McConnell’s popular and versatile performer Seddon is set to return to action at the Punchestown Festival.

The 11-year-old provided connections with an unforgettable day at the races when landing the Magners Plate Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year.

He then reverted to hurdles for the Fitzwilliam Sports Handicap Hurdle at Punchestown’s flagship meeting last term, capping a successful season with another valuable triumph.

A run on the Flat preceded his jumping campaign this season, which then began when he was beaten only a neck in the Deacy Gilligan Hurdle at Galway in September.

Seddon then looked to emulate Shark Hanlon’s Hewick when he set sail for Far Hills in New Jersey to contest the American Grand National, a race in which he finished third for owners the Galaxy Horse Racing Syndicate.

The gelding met with a setback after the run and has not been seen since as a result, but now he has returned to action and is being aimed at the Punchestown Festival to kick off a campaign that will run throughout the warmer months.

“He’s Punchestown-bound and hopefully he goes there in good shape, that’s the plan with him,” said McConnell.

“He had a setback in America and we had to do a little procedure on him and he’s coming back from that now.

“He’s in good shape and we’re hopeful that we can get a good run with him now, he’ll probably stay on into the summer.

“We haven’t had much of a campaign with him so we’re hoping we can get him back to form and kick on with him.”

Ted Walsh believes even if Willie Mullins does not manage to emulate Vincent O’Brien by being crowned champion trainer in the UK when based in Ireland, both have played their part in changing the face of National Hunt racing.

Given the feats will be over 70 years apart – O’Brien was champion trainer for successive seasons in the early 1950s – Walsh feels it is difficult to compare their achievements.

However, he is left in no doubt that just like O’Brien, Mullins is destined to be remembered as a man who changed his sport.

“It’s very hard to compare anything like that because the prize-money was totally different,” said Walsh.

“Willie has never been that bothered about it, he admits it, but now he’s in front he may as well have a good go. He was very close one year when Vautour fell at Aintree (2016), if he had won Willie would have been champion.

“Whether Willie is champion trainer in England or not – it would be a great achievement, but he’s the real deal whether he does it or not.”

O’Brien was a pioneer who after dominating the National Hunt scene in the 1950s and 1960s, later switched his attentions to the Flat, winning the Triple Crown with Nijinsky in 1970. He remains the last man to win the Triple Crown.

“Vincent won three English Nationals with three different horses three years in a row (Early Mist 1953, Royal Tan 1954 and Quare Times 1955), three Champion Hurdles with Hatton’s Grace (1949–1951), the Gloucester Hurdle at Cheltenham used to divide and in 15 years he won 11 of them!” said an incredulous Walsh.

“Of course after doing all that he went and did the same on the Flat!

“He told me once that he always travelled first class on the train because there was a chance of meeting someone with money! He met John McShane on a train going to Doncaster for the sales and he bought him Ballymoss and Gladness. Ballymoss he won an Irish Derby, the Leger and the Arc and Gladness won the Ebor and the Ascot Gold Cup the following year.

“Vincent set the standard. I knew him, but whenever I saw him I would say ‘Hello Mr O’Brien’ – it was never Vincent. My father knew him well, he was from a similar area to us.”

The victory of I Am Maximus in Saturday’s Grand National means Mullins holds an advantage over Dan Skelton and Paul Nicholls, setting up a fantastic finale with Closutton set to be well represented at Ayr and Sandown over the next two weekends.

“Like Willie is now, Vincent was a hero, everybody looked up to him. I remember growing up as kid listening to my dad and my uncle Ted talking about Vincent,” said Walsh, who won the National with Papillon in 2000.

“I’d say it was pretty similar in those days of people getting sick of Vincent winning, he didn’t quite dominate Cheltenham like Willie does – but I’m sure people were sick of it!

“It was a huge achievement Vincent winning the UK title, I don’t know if he was the first man to try, but he was the first to do it. But Vincent did so many things first.

“He was the first to fly horses from Ireland, the first person to put in an all-weather gallop in Ireland and now everybody has them. He was a pioneer, he brought the sport forward years.

“Like Willie really, Willie has changed it as well but the scale of what he is doing makes it different. Transporting the horses now is different, they have lovely lorries with air conditioning, the roads are so much better so that makes it easier. Everything has moved on.

“I wouldn’t say one fellow was better than the other, but Vincent set the ball rolling and it hasn’t been done by anybody since Vincent.

“When I was growing up Vincent was inaccessible, he was almost treated like royalty, but Willie is the most approachable fellow, he’s very good for the sport and he’s a great ambassador for racing.”

Leighlinbridge will welcome the return of yet another Willie Mullins champion on Tuesday evening, with Randox Grand National hero I Am Maximus set to enjoy his homecoming parade.

It is little over a month since Galopin Des Champs received the acclaim of the locals after successfully defending his crown in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a fourth blue riband in six years for Mullins following the back-to-back victories of Al Boum Photo in 2019 and 2020.

Similar scenes can be expected on Tuesday, with the JP McManus-owned I Am Maximus, along with Mullins and jockey Paul Townend, due to parade through Leighlinbridge in County Carlow at 5.30pm before posing for photographs outside of the renowned Lord Bagenal Inn.

Patrick Mullins reported I Am Maximus to have returned to Ireland none the worse after providing his father with a second National win, the first being Hedgehunter 19 years ago, and reserved special praise for Townend, who completed the extremely rare feat of winning the Champion Hurdle, Gold Cup and Grand National in the same year.

“It was an incredible day and it was some ride from Paul, he was at his best,” said Mullins.

“There’s not a bother on him (I Am Maximus). It’s not the race it was, so it’s a bit easier to come out of it well.”

Having made it no further than The Chair in the Randox Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, Mr Incredible is set to make a swift reappearance as part of Willie Mullins’ assault on this weekend’s Coral Scottish Grand National meeting at Ayr.

The victory of I Am Maximus in the world’s most famous steeplechase put Mullins in pole position in the race to be crowned Britain’s champion trainer in less than a fortnight’s time, and the Closutton team are keen to press home their advantage by sending a formidable squad to Scotland.

Mullins has made 33 entries across this weekend’s eight-race card, with six standing their ground for the £200,000 main event.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, told the PA news agency: “We had a good look at what we could enter and what could be competitive and what races were worth nice money. We’ll definitely be doing our very best after the position we find ourselves in now.

“We’ve just got to find the right horses for the right races. Obviously Punchestown is very high in our thoughts as well.

“We were in a very similar position eight years ago and Paul Nicholls came back and beat us, so we’re not taking anything for granted just yet.”

The sponsors make the Mullins-trained Fairyhouse scorer Macdermott their 6-1 favourite for the Scottish National, with Mr Incredible’s odds slashed from 8-1 from 16-1 after he was left in the race at Monday’s confirmation stage.

As short as 10-1 at Aintree, the talented but not entirely predictable eight-year-old was slow to start at Aintree, was impeded by the fall of the loose Corach Rambler at the second fence and then again by Mahler Mission when eventually unseating his rider at the 15th.

Mullins said: “He started slowly and only did a lap before he came down, so he didn’t exert himself too much. He’ll probably take his chance again on Saturday.

“He actually jumped The Chair perfectly and ran into the back of a horse that made a mistake.

“He didn’t get a great start and nothing went right, but it might be all for luck.

“It’s a huge step up in class for Macdermott, but he has always looked a staying chaser and the extended trip should bring out the best in him.”

Ontheropes, Spanish Harlem, Klark Kent and We’llhavewan are the trainer’s other Scottish National hopefuls, while Westport Cove, Bialystok, Ocastle Des Mottes and Alvaniy are all possible representatives in the £100,000 Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle.

Other Mullins-trained entries on the card include the popular veteran Sharjah, who is in the opening Scotty Brand Handicap Chase and the CPMS Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase, both worth £50,000, with impressive Punchestown winner Billericay Dickie one of 10 in the £20,000 Tennent’s Novices’ Hurdle.

“I don’t know what will run at this stage, we’ll have to have a look at the weights when they come out, but at the moment everything is possible,” Mullins added.

“There’s a chance Paul (Townend) will be over and there’s a chance plenty of our jockeys will be over, I’d say. I’ve never been to Ayr, but I’m thinking I’ll be travelling over this weekend anyway.”

The only previous Irish-based trainer to be crowned champion in Britain was the great Vincent O’Brien, who claimed back-to-back titles in the 1950s.

On the prospect of emulating the legendary handler, Mullins said: “To me Vincent O’Brien is the legend of the game, not a legend of the game, so to match something Vincent O’Brien did would be an extraordinary achievement and one everyone would be very proud of, but it won’t be easy.”

Paul Gilligan has an eye on the Punchestown Festival after another huge run from stable star Buddy One in the JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle.

The seven-year-old did connections proud when ridden by the trainer’s son, Jack, to finish fourth at 40-1 in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

From there he took aim at the Aintree staying prize and this time he was not so overlooked in the market when starting at odds of 15-2.

After running prominently the gelding hit the front with three flights left to jump and at one point looked the winner, but it was Olly Murphy’s Strong Leader who surged to the head of the field to prevail.

Buddy One was still a gallant second, however, and could now head to Punchestown to round off his season before he is aimed at a novice chasing campaign next year.

“He came home 100 per cent from it, fresh and well, I’m over the moon with the run,” said Gilligan.

“It’s a pity one had to pass us, but we’re delighted with him and he’s very, very well after it.

“He’s run two massive races in Grade One company over hurdles and he’ll jump a fence, we’ll definitely go chasing with him next year.

“It’s up in the air whether he’ll go to Punchestown with him, we possibly will, in fact I think we might, but we’ll see and the main thing to us is that he’s safe and sound.”

Gilligan is hoping Buddy One’s exploits at the two biggest National Hunt meetings in England will do the trick when it comes to attracting new owners to his Galway stable.

He said: “We had a great time in Cheltenham and Aintree and these horses are hard to come by, we’re just hoping next time we come to England somebody will say ‘will you take a horse or two for me!’.”

Gilligan is father to Jack, who claims 7lb, and also Danny, who claims 5lb and rides predominantly for Gordon Elliott.

Both jockeys were in demand throughout the Aintree meeting, with Danny partnering Elliott’s Chemical Energy in the Grand National.

Gilligan said of his sons: “I have two lads riding on the big stage, Jack has been riding for us here and Danny is riding for Gordon and it’s a great old feeling.

“Myself and my wife Natalie, we’re proud like any parents would be, we get a wonderful kick out of it.”

Craig Kieswetter may have been watching at home in Cape Town, but he still roared home Il Etait Temps as he landed his second Grade One of the season at Aintree.

The former England international cricketer is now a key part of his family’s racing operations and under their Barnane-stud banner, owns the pint-sized Willie Mullins-trained grey along with partners the Hollywood Syndicate.

A top-level scorer for the first time over fences at the Dublin Racing Festival, he had to settle for third in the Arkle before showing his class up in trip at Liverpool in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase, romping to a nine-length success.

It was the six-year-old’s third Grade One success overall and the former England wicket-keeper was keen to pay tribute to the star performer of his family’s National Hunt string.

Kieswetter said: “I’m absolutely delighted and to win like that, by over nine lengths, was incredible. I’m back in Cape Town but I’m sure they would have heard me shouting him home.

“It was fantastic to have my old man over there at Aintree along with Ross Doyle and Peter Wynn Jone. They flew over in the morning to watch the race and it was a great trip over for them.

“All Grade Ones are big races and that takes our tally up to three now and it could have been more. He’s come up against some proper horses, which you do in Grade Ones, and he’s small but mighty.

“He’s got a huge heart that is probably triple times the size he is physically, but he certainly gives it his all every time and he’s a fantastic horse to be part of.”

Despite tasting success at Royal Ascot, the Punchestown Festival and now Aintree’s Grand National Festival, Kieswetter and the Barnane team are still searching for an elusive first success at the Cheltenham Festival.

Il Etait Temps has visited Prestbury Park for the showpiece meeting on three occasions, with this year’s Arkle third the best of his trio of efforts, and the 36-year-old hopes with experience, the gelding can continue to ply his trade on the biggest days.

Kieswetter continued: “The ground probably suited him and Aintree being flatter probably helped – he runs well at Leopardstown which we know. Hopefully with a bit more experience he can go back to Cheltenham and challenge again.

“He has an option at Punchestown and I’m not sure if Willie will run him or not, but if he does run I’ll definitely be there.

“To have horses like these is what sport and this industry is about, it’s about having dreams and when you get one you can jump along and have a good time with, it makes it all worthwhile.

“We’re delighted for Willie and his team and of course we have to congratulate our partners. As always we have to thank Peter, Ross and Anna Doyle who play such a huge part in the team at Barnane and it’s always fantastic to have them involved.”

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