Racing: Mulligan silences Silk

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The Independent Online
The focus was on the younger generation around Britain yesterday, with star billing taken by the two-mile chaser Mulligan. The exciting seven-year-old produced a foot-perfect display of jumping at speed to win the Michael Page Group Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick by five lengths, and it will take an exceptional novice to lower his colours in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham next month.

The fast pace set by Adrian Maguire on Mulligan ruthlessly exposed his market rival Squire Silk's inexperience over the bigger obstacles. The former good-class hurdler failed several times to raise his undercarriage and Paul Carberry did extremely well to maintain the partnership as his mount belly-flopped through the first open ditch. To be fair to Squire Silk, he had the pace to get back within striking distance of Mulligan two out, but had nothing left when the leader quickened away for his fifth successive win over fences, with Maguire standing in his stirrups waving his whip, Dettori-style, to the appreciative crowd.

Mulligan's family name is already on the Arkle roll of honour, his aunt Anaglog's Daughter having won it 17 years ago. An immaculate jumping pedigree is one reason why David Nicholson had to go to 100,000 guineas for him, at the Doncaster auction sales nine months ago, but the perky chestnut's performances, in the colours of one of the sport's most stalwart supporters, Lady Harris, have more than justified his price tag. Nicholson said: "That was electric. He has been a natural from day one, and will be even better on softer ground."

An owner in Martin Pipe's yard was the underbidder for Mulligan, but the champion trainer can undoubtedly find consolation in his own mightily impressive novice Cyborgo, who strengthened his credentials for a tilt at his seniors in the Gold Cup with a fluent victory in the Clive Graham Novices' Chase at Chepstow. The big brown French-bred, who established his class, stamina and courage with his victory in last year's Stayers Hurdle, jumped not only well, but also cleverly, for Richard Dunwoody as he powered home nine lengths clear of Buckhouse Boy, and is clearly on an upward learning curve over fences. His Gold Cup price is now 16- 1, though Pipe has yet to nominate the title as his target.

Josh Gifford is another with a decision to make after Boardroom Shuffle took his unbeaten record to five in the Colin Davies Persian War Premier Novices' Hurdle, also at Chepstow. Given a confident ride by Philip Hide, the talented five-year-old came into the straight cantering all over the leading group, and a smooth change of gear going to the last took him to the front as the leader Mighty Moss blundered.

Boardroom Shuffle holds an entry for the Champion Hurdle, and it will be his only chance for glory as he goes chasing next year. But his trainer said: "We'll play it by ear. He may not be experienced enough for the Champion, but if the race cut up we would have to consider it."

At Gowran Park in Ireland, Theatreworld confirmed himself a lively Champion Hurdle outsider with a clear-cut win in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle. The Aidan O'Brien-trained ex-Flat runner joined Guest Performance at the final flight and quickened two lengths clear under Charlie Swan.

At Newcastle the progressive staying chaser Seven Towers landed the four miles and a furlong Eider Handicap Chase by eight lengths. The Mary Reveley- trained eight-year-old swept past last year's winner Killeshin two fences out and stormed clear to give Peter Niven the third leg of a treble.

Reveley, as delighted as the punters who made the gelding their 2-1 favourite for the annual marathon, said: "He might make an Aintree horse one day, but this was his target this year. I 've had the race mapped out for him all season."