08 January 2023

Champ Kiely makes all for Grade One gold

08 January 2023

Champ Kiely led from pillar-to-post to provide Willie Mullins with a ninth victory in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle.

The seven-year-old was one of two runners for the champion trainer in the Grade One contest, with the previously unbeaten Grangeclare West the apparent first string as the 15-8 favourite.

Champ Kiely won a Limerick bumper, a Galway maiden hurdle and Grade Three at Tipperary on his first three starts under Rules, but could only finish fourth as the 10-11 favourite for the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse last month and was a 100-30 chance stepping back up in distance.

As is often the case, Danny Mullins got his fractions spot-on in front and Champ Kiely answered his every call in the straight to see off Royal Bond runner-up Irish Point by two and a quarter lengths.

Coral halved Champ Kiely’s odds for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham to 8-1 from 16-1.

“It was a good performance. I got a great feel off this fellow in Tipperary,” said the winning rider.

“The Royal Bond was a bit of a messy race, he was only beaten four and a bit lengths. I believed he had something like that in him, which is easy to say but he’s gone and proved it.

“He’s won over further so the trip was never going to be an issue.”

Grangeclare West was ultimately disappointing in fifth place.

Asked if he was surprised by the finishing order, Mullins’ assistant David Casey said: “Not really – they are two very good horses in their own right.

“I’d say tactically the race didn’t work for Champ Kiely in Fairyhouse. We’re back to what he’s good at today and I’d say the step up in trip was a help as well, and soft ground.

“It all fell right and Danny said he was very happy with him, he gave him a great ride.”

Of Grangeclare West, he added: “I haven’t spoken to Paul yet, it looked like he travelled all right and didn’t seem to get home for whatever reason.

“I’ll speak to Paul and we’ll get him checked out and see.”

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