It was a fairytale success for a man who may well have lived when fairytales were constructed. At the age of 84, Paddy Mullins won the Irish Oaks at the Curragh yesterday with Vintage Tipple. While he may never have actually gone to school with Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm, Mullins may have been united with them on school exchanges.
For many of us he has not been the most accommodating of interviewees down the years, but, for what Mullins saves in printable words he lavishes on expertise in the turf world, supplying winners for 50 years as well as a dynasty which will romance his name for many years to come.
Vintage Tipple could well have been reference to Mullins's own talents. Her prospects of success at the Curragh yesterday appeared fairly wild, as did that of most of the field, as Aidan O'Brien's second string, L'Ancresse, applied the afterburner at the head of affairs.
She was clear for much of the journey and still around five lengths to the good as the home turn was breached. The mount of Seamus Heffernan was galloping with purpose all the way down the straight and, when L'Ancresse held a three-length advantage at the furlong pole, the die appeared cast.
This, though, was the point when Frankie Dettori and Vintage Tipple clicked. The daughter of Entrepreneur found extra reserves to quicken up to L'Ancresse and then pass her near the line, for a famous success. Andrew Balding's Casual Look, the Oaks heroine, had chased L'Ancresse throughout and she battled all the way to finish a close-up third.
Yesterday, the O'Brien first string, who raced in midfield in the first half of the contest, ran on into a never-dangerous fourth. The 11-8 favourite was expected by some to reverse Epsom form with Casual Look but proved disappointing under Mick Kinane.
Mullins, who will always be remembered as the Dawn Run man, rated Vintage Tipple as the best he had trained on the Flat since Hurry Harriet, who was third to Dahlia in this race in 1973 before beating Allez France in the Champion Stakes. So, whatever else has gone, his memory and training instincts are still in place.
"She's a very good filly," the trainer said. "She just had the one hiccough, but she came through it well. If she stays lucky, the sky's the limit for her."
Meanwhile, Dettori, who was on rusks at the time of Hurry Harriet, admitted he was surprised at the ease of victory. "The further she went, the stronger she got," he said. "When I turned round a furlong out I couldn't believe we would win so easily. A Classic is a Classic, and you have got to take your hat off to connections."
It was not all hot baths and razor blades for Ballydoyle as, earlier in the day, One Cool Cat justified substantial support in the Group Three Anglesey Stakes.
There are two baskets at the Ballydoyle and Coolmore axis these days and, as there will not be many more eggs fertilised by the ageing Sadler's Wells, Storm Cat, One Cool Cat's sire, is the new favoured breeding machine. Every time one of his offspring succeeds it is no great shock to hear O'Brien talking in terms of homage.
Thus it was yesterday. Those who had backed the 1-3 favourite might have been chewing their cuffs over a furlong out, when it seemed as if One Cool Cat, who was loitering effortlessly at the rear of the field, might not get a clear run.
Michael Kinane had only, however, to go through the exercise of shaking the reins inside the final furlong to sweep through and account for Mark Johnston's Leicester Square by one and a half lengths. The horse flowed and then, so too, did the hyperbole. O'Brien opened up by calling his winner "a stunner".
"From the first day he went racing he has been exciting, a beautiful horse," he said. "Any trip would be all right for him. He could go anywhere. We might look at coming back for the Heinz 57 Stakes next month, but there are plenty of options.
"He has a surge in the middle of his races which makes him very unusual. He goes straight from first gear to third gear in a couple of strides."Reuse content