Thursday, March 17, 2022

ON a day when the great Tiger Roll just failed to match the six times Cheltenham winning record of the great Quevega, the son of Quevega, Facile Vega, created his own history by winning the Weatherby’s Bumper, the lastrace on Day 2 of Cheltenham Festival.

By Pat Costello

Jockey, Patrick Mullins, trainer Willie Mullins and members of the Hammer and Trowel Syndicate celebrate Facile Vega’s win in the Bumper on Day 2 at Cheltenham Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Owned by the Clane based Hammer and Trowel Syndicate and ridden by three time winner of the race, Patrick Mullins, Facile Vega gave trainer, Willie Mullins, his 12 winner of the race and his 82nd winner overall at the Festival. Returned the 15-8 Favourite, the five year old came home three and three quarter lengths to the good over American Mike.

Facile Vega is out of Quevega, the only six-time Festival winner. Quevega won the Mares’ Hurdle every year from 2009 to 2014 inclusive. Facile Vega owners, the Hammer & Trowel Syndicate from Clane, also owned Quevega and Wednesday’s Bumper was their eighth Festival success.

Speaking after the race trainer Willie Mullins said, “He (Facile Vega) looked just the real deal as we always thought and he proved it today in conditions that were not conducive to him for producing his best. He is at his best on better ground however he looked in really good form.

“I think he could go both ways (either be a Supreme or a Ballymore horse). We will win a maiden hurdle then decide. He gallops and jumps. His mother won over two, two and a half and three miles and he is by Walk In The Park. At the moment I don’t know how good he is and what his best trip is. He covers an awful lot of ground when he is galloping but he has plenty of speed which you saw today and at Leopardstown when he just opened up on good ground. We will see how he jumps but he jumps well enough at home with what we have done but let’s answer those questions (which route to take) when he goes over jumps. ”

“To me I was comparing him to Florida Pearl who was a very good bumper horse at the time. He would be in the top percentage of bumpers winners I’ve had.  We had the dam and she was so good and that he has come through and looks to be as good as her is fantastic.  He is very easy to train and we just keep a lid on him all the time. The only pressure I had with him was the pressure I put on myself,” Mullins added.

“That’s what I just see at home every day. He just travels when we do work. This horse just travels and so now you’re seeing what I see. He really impressed me in Leopardstown and just impressed me again today. He’s a real sort,” the trainer concluded.

Winning Jockey, Patrick Mullins said, “It’s not the Champion Chase, but it’s a help! No, it’s a huge buzz – Quevega gives this horse a huge following, and winning in Cheltenham always means a great bit of atmosphere, and I think everyone enjoyed that immensely. We’ve made no secret for a long time that we liked this horse and we nominated him at the start of the season. I rode him last spring and gave him a squeeze and Willie had a very stern face afterwards – he thought it might have been too much, but from that far ago he’s been giving us a great feel.”

“Riding in that race was like wacky races – bumpers are called that for a reason; they’re like bumper cars, but I didn’t get a fantastic start. They went fast and I was following Paul Townend, but he almost got brought down which knocked us back, and it was a bit like a pinball machine until I got past the stands and I found a bit of space. I just saw Jamie [Codd] on my outside and I said I was going to follow  him, and luckily I had Brian Hayes as my landlord on my outside and I was following  him as we were going in and out of the hurdles – it was difficult, but I was just cantering everywhere.

“He’s a fine big horse. Quevega handled this ground and he sluiced through it. I was a little worried how he’d handle the preliminaries, being a Walk In The Park,  but he walked round lovely and kept very relaxed. He got a little hot going down the chute, but once he was out on the track he was fine. He could have very easily got lit up from all the bumps early on, but he stayed settled and once I was able to get into a gap,  he was able to get me into it before I’d even thought it, and that makes a huge difference in a race like that where a) it’s tight and you’re going in and out and the gaps change every second.”

Referring to the legacy of Quevega, the dam of Facile Vega, Patrick Mullins said, “It just doesn’t happen! She’s a very special mare in every regard. We have his brother, just born last month – well, there are a few of them – coming along now.”

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