Mullins lays Cheltenham Festival marker on Market Rasen bow

Paul Townend and Panic Attack enter the winners' enclosure. Picture: Peter Thompson EMN-200120-094216002
Paul Townend and Panic Attack enter the winners' enclosure. Picture: Peter Thompson EMN-200120-094216002

Top Irish trainer Willie Mullins made a winning debut at Market Rasen Racecourse last Thursday to land the big feature race prize.

Mullins has been among Ireland’s leading trainers for some time, but it took until last week to send his first runner to the Lincolnshire course, in Panic Attack.
Paul Townend, champion jockey in Ireland and the leading rider across the British Isles, was also making a rare appearance at Rasen on board the 5/2 favourite in the day’s fifth race, the Alan Swinbank Mares Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Zolfo (right) continued his winning run in the Wetherby's Bank Handicap Steeplechase. Picture: Peter Thompson EMN-200120-094227002

Zolfo (right) continued his winning run in the Wetherby's Bank Handicap Steeplechase. Picture: Peter Thompson EMN-200120-094227002

Faced by flooded tracks in Ireland, and a cancellation at Cheltenham, Mullins sent the four-year-old to Market Rasen, seeking better ground for her National Hunt debut.

And after an explosive performance, Panic Attack rocketed to the top of the betting for the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The mare is the daughter of Canford Cliffs, a horse with the quality to win a classic.

The field had done nothing exceptional and were packed together approaching the final furlong when Townend just seemed to press the accelerator button and got his mount ahead.

From there she almost cantered past the post for a 10-length win, with the Gataway Star finishing a distant second.

“She absolutely eased home and gave me a lovely ride,” Townend said.

“She has been working well at home and the key to success is the confidence she showed on the racecourse.

“Once she hit the front she did everything right.”

Another highlight of a splendid afternoon’s racing was the fourth win on the trot for Zolfo (7/1) who had previous with two wins at Bangor and one at our local track.

It proved hard work this time in the heavy ground for the eight-year-old, trained by Jennie Candish at Leek, but he stayed on impressively after carnage at two fences in the straight.

Another to impress was Strong Glance (7/2) in the Class 4 Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle where Fergus Gregory was on board for trainer Olly Murphy.

But despite the decent runs elsewhere, it was the Mullins horse who will be remembered for the class she showed in little more than half-a-minute.

The gasps of appreciation were audible in the stands as she passed the post before entering what is likely to be the first winner’s enclosure of many.

Mullins, missed the trip, sending his son Willie Jnr in his stead.

The next meeting at Market Rasen is on Tuesday, February 4.