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Horse Racing: Fiveforthree romps in to earn 8-1 quote for Cheltenham; PUNCHESTOWN.

Byline: by Brian Fleming

WILLIE MULLINS unleashed a potential Champion Bumper winner in the shape of Fiveforthree, a half-brother to Celestial Gold who made an impressive winning debut under Katie Walsh.

Mullins, who has won the Cheltenham race five times, was suitably impressed after the grey son of Arzanni sprinted clear to defeat another newcomer, I Hear A Symphony, by eight lengths, with the well-touted pair Indifference Curve and Devil Winds behind.

"He won a schooling bumper handy enough at Thurles and he's a smart horse who improved immensely over the last two or three weeks," said Mullins.

"All being well, he'll head across the water to Cheltenham and I'm very happy, as he's likely to improve a lot from that." Mullins, who has Mad Fish as another probable for the race, said: "He's entered on Saturday but I don't want to run him on this ground. Fiveforfree and Mad Fish are my only likely runners in the race next month."

Boylesports introduced the winner at 8-1 for the Champion Bumper, with Cashmans going 14-1.

French import Wins Now registered his third hurdles success for the Niall Madden father-and-son team in the 2m novice event, but plans for Cheltenham next month are undecided.

Although not fluent at times, the former dual Flat winner pinged the last when required after heading Montana Bay and Holly Tree to score by two and a half lengths.

The six-year-old, owned by JP McManus, is entered for the Supreme Novices', for which he is quoted at 25-1 with VCbet and Stan James, and 33-1 with Cashmans.

Madden snr said: "Niall said the ground was a bit dead for him and he's entered for the Supreme Novices'. We'll see how he comes out of this first and what plans his owner has.

"He's a big horse at 17hh and a better horse on better ground. In time he'll jump a fence better than a hurdle."

Knocknabooly, who disappointed when well fancied for the Champion Bumper almost three years ago, got off the mark over jumps at his second attempt under Davy Condon.

A faller just six days earlier under Ruby Walsh, the Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old, who had two and a half years off with leg trouble, returned to winning ways with a comfortable eightlength victory for locally born owners Padraig and Margaret O'Rourke.

Mullins said: "He jumped great after his fall last time out and we'll keep him in Ireland. Coming back here in April is the main aim. If we can win a few novice hurdles before then it would be nice."

Druids Castle justified support from 4-1 into 5-2 when winning the opening 2m4f winners' hurdle under Barry Geraghty and a trip to Cheltenham for the Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle, for which he is 33-1 with Cashmans, is possible.

"His owners live in England so the Ballymore race or the likes of Aintree could be on the cards," said trainer Joe Crowley.

Seamus Fahy and his son James combined with Wheresben to land the 2m4f winners' hurdle. "I thought the trip might be a bit short for him, as he keeps galloping. He'll probably go over fences now," said Fahy snr.

Donal Fahy, 20, from Tara in County Meath, added to his 11 wins as an amateur when scoring for the first time as a professional aboard Barcardero for Colm Murphy.

Star performance

Fiveforthree, who entered the Champion Bumper picture with an eyecatching debut success

Quote of the day

"It worked out well, but it always works out well when they win" - Seamus Fahy after Wheresben obliged

Family fortunes

The Maddens - father 'Boots' and son 'Slippers' - and the Fahys completed an unusual father-and-son double

CAPTION(S):

Niall 'Slippers' Madden leaps the last on Wins Now before scoring a convincing novice hurdle victory, and (below) the jockey is joined by his father, and successful trainer, Niall 'Boots' Madden Pictures: CAROLINE NORRIS
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Feb 22, 2007
Words:646
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