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Kiely collects in Naas Grade 1

Champ Kiely and Danny MullinsChamp Kiely and Danny Mullins
© Photo Healy Racing

Champ Kiely won Ireland's first Grade 1 race of 2023, the Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle at Naas today, justifying market support despite being trainer Willie Mullins' apparent second-string on jockey bookings.

Eight horses, from seven different yards, lined up and while Mullins' Grangeclare West was stable jockey Paul Townend's pick, started an uneasy 15/8 favourite, ahead of better supported Champ Kiely (5/1 to 100/30).

Just seven of the original 11 hurdles were jumped in the 2m4f race, due to low sun in the home straight, with Champ Kiely, under Danny Mullins, making all to win. Runner-up Irish Point briefly pressed the winner bypassing the second-last flight but failed to close in the final furlong, with Champ Kiely scoring by two and a quarter lengths.

A pair of J.P. McManus-owned runners, Dawn Rising and Inothewayurthinkin filled third and fourth place while Mullins' beaten favourite Grangeclare West failed to land a blow, finishing fifth.

Trainer Willie Mullins wasn't present and his nephew, successful jockey Danny Mullins who said “it was a good performance and I got a great feel off this fellow in Tipperary.

“The Royal Bond Hurdle was a bit of a messy race but he was only beaten four-and-a-bit lengths so I believed he had something like that in him. It's easy to say it but he's gone and proved it. He's won over further so the trip was never going to be an issue.”

The trainer's assistant David Casey added “I'm not really surprised as they (Champ Kiely and favourite Grangeclare West) are two very good horses in their own right.

“I'd say tactically the race didn't work for Champ Kiely in Fairyhouse and we're back to what he's good at today - 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 and he gave him a great ride.

“He was tough and I think he would have been better with the two hurdles in but it is what it is.

“I'd say he could go either two-miles or 2m4f but I'd say tactically we didn't get it right in Fairyhouse over two and back over 2m4f today he made the running, stays well enough but has a bit of pace.”

He added “he won his bumper well without being spectacular, what he did in Galway was very good and then had a break. He seemed to improve for it, just got better and better and Tipperary was very good obviously.”

Regarding Grangeclare West he added “I haven't spoken to Paul (Townend) yet, it looked like he travelled alright and didn't seem to get home for whatever reason. I'll speak to Paul and we'll get him checked out and see.”

Quotes from Gary Carson

About Tom Weekes
A lifelong racing fan, Tom began writing point to point reports in 2002 and has reported for irishracing.com since 2003, when he joined Irish Racing Services - since taken over by the Press Association. Has ridden a point to point winner and won the 2018 Irish Field Naps Table.