Seabank Bistro appears to have earned himself a place on Willie Mullins’ Cheltenham Festival team after making it third time lucky over hurdles at Naas.
A winner on his racecourse debut at the County Kildare circuit on this day last year, the six-year-old went on to finish fourth behind esteemed stablemate Facile Vega in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.
He was beaten at odds-on in his first two races over hurdles at Punchestown and Limerick, but made no mistake as a 1-2 shot for the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle – travelling strongly to the lead under Paul Townend and coming home with just under three lengths in hand.
Mullins said: “He’s a big immature horse. He did it nicely, he jumps well and is more of a chaser, I think.
“He’ll go out in trip I’d say, maybe to three miles. He was just gawky when he got to the front, he was just idling.
“Paul had to get after him to get up the straight, but that’s twice he’s won around Naas and it’s always a good sign when you can win on this track.
“I’d imagine he’ll get entries in Cheltenham in the Albert Bartlett and Ballymore, I’d be thinking more the Albert Bartlett at this stage.”
Seabank Bistro’s win was the middle leg of a treble on the card for Mullins, with Echoes In Rain impressing in the Limestone Lad Hurdle and Western Diego dominating from the front in the bumper.
A £125,000 purchase after winning an Irish point-to-point, Western Diego was ridden by the trainer’s son Patrick on his rules debut and comfortably justified 6-5 favouritism.
Mullins added: “It’s nice for Steve Parkin (owner) who is more associated with the Flat. He did it well making all his own running which is a hard thing to do around here.
“That books his ticket to go across the water (for the Champion Bumper) if Steve wants to go, which I’m sure he will.
“He stays well, he’s by Westerner. He looks like a nice staying novice for next year.”
Oliver McKiernan’s Aarons Day (3-1 favourite) secured his first win in almost three years in the Buy Your Naas 2023 Membership Now Novice Handicap Chase, with Phillip Enright the winning jockey.
The nine-year-old had been highly tried in novice company over fences and made the most of having his sights lowered with a seven-and-a-half-length verdict on his handicap chase debut.
“We’re delighted and it was a great ride by Phillip,” said McKiernan.
“He was keeping better company than that for a while, maybe too good, but it taught him a bit. I think it told today that it taught him how to race a bit.
“He liked the ground and the track. We were hoping he’d do that but we were hoping before that he’d do different things!
“He’s a big moody gent. He’s difficult to handle and can blow a fuse very quickly. He’s big and powerful so it’s not simple. Hopefully he’s developing and getting better now.
“I have no plans really. He’ll probably stay at the likes of that and will stay further in time.”
The father-son team of Charles and Philip Byrnes teamed up to land the Cheltenham Trials Day At Naas February 11th Maiden Hurdle with 9-1 shot Byker.
Byrnes senior said: “He’s a lovely, big horse. He had a nice run in Limerick and came forward from that. We were hopeful today but there was so much word for a few others that we were getting worried.”
When asked if he could get an entry in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham, he added:- “He could but he’d need another run. We won’t rule it out.”
Doyen Ta Win was a 6-1 winner of the Congratulations Naas On Cleanest Town In Ireland In 2021 & 2022 Handicap Hurdle.