Echoes In Rain seeking perfect Festival farewell

By Sports Desk February 18, 2024

Craig Kieswetter is excited for one last crack at the Cheltenham Festival with Echoes In Rain, who will head to Prestbury Park for her racecourse swansong next month bidding to bring the curtain down on her career with a fairytale success.

Former England cricket star Kieswetter is a key figure in his family’s Barnane Stud alongside brother Ross and stud manager Patrick Wynn-Jones, with Echoes In Rain proving to be the star performer of their jumps string over the years.

Trained by Willie Mullins, she has won nine of her 30 career starts across both codes, with her finest hours coming at the Punchestown Festival where she won Grade Ones both as a novice in 2021 and then two years later against her fellow mares.

However, she has found success at the Cheltenham Festival harder to come by and will be given one final chance to conquer the Cotswolds before moving on to be a part of Barnane’s broodmare band.

“She’s going to head to Cheltenham and it will probably be her final hurrah before we take her back to Barnane Stud to start her career as a broodmare,” said Kieswetter.

“She’s a real fighter and every time we ask a question of her, she goes for it. For a mare who tries her hardest every single time, she’s had to come up against the likes of Honeysuckle and State Man all the way through her career.

“We’ve had some fantastic fun with her. I was there when she got pipped on the line in the Irish Cesarewitch, Rachael (Blackmore) jumped off and was devastated, but she has given us some fantastic times.

“We are looking forward to one final outing with her and then she can start her new career.”

Last year Echoes In Rain had to settle for a minor role as regular adversary Honeysuckle bowed out in style in the Mares’ Hurdle and Kieswetter feels that race is the most likely for Echoes In Rain’s final appearance, rather than stepping up to face the might of Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle.

He continued: “We’ll have a discussion with Willie and his team and see which direction they want to go. I’m suspecting it will probably be the Mares’ Hurdle, but you never know.

“Willie won all the Grade Ones at Leopardstown and is operating at a ridiculous strike-rate and is the best, we are more than happy to just follow the advice of where he wants to go.”

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    It is little over a month since Galopin Des Champs received the acclaim of the locals after successfully defending his crown in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a fourth blue riband in six years for Mullins following the back-to-back victories of Al Boum Photo in 2019 and 2020.

    Similar scenes can be expected on Tuesday, with the JP McManus-owned I Am Maximus, along with Mullins and jockey Paul Townend, due to parade through Leighlinbridge in County Carlow at 5.30pm before posing for photographs outside of the renowned Lord Bagenal Inn.

    Patrick Mullins reported I Am Maximus to have returned to Ireland none the worse after providing his father with a second National win, the first being Hedgehunter 19 years ago, and reserved special praise for Townend, who completed the extremely rare feat of winning the Champion Hurdle, Gold Cup and Grand National in the same year.

    “It was an incredible day and it was some ride from Paul, he was at his best,” said Mullins.

    “There’s not a bother on him (I Am Maximus). It’s not the race it was, so it’s a bit easier to come out of it well.”

  • Mr Incredible set to be part of powerful Ayr raid for title-chasing Mullins Mr Incredible set to be part of powerful Ayr raid for title-chasing Mullins

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    The victory of I Am Maximus in the world’s most famous steeplechase put Mullins in pole position in the race to be crowned Britain’s champion trainer in less than a fortnight’s time, and the Closutton team are keen to press home their advantage by sending a formidable squad to Scotland.

    Mullins has made 33 entries across this weekend’s eight-race card, with six standing their ground for the £200,000 main event.

    Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, told the PA news agency: “We had a good look at what we could enter and what could be competitive and what races were worth nice money. We’ll definitely be doing our very best after the position we find ourselves in now.

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    “We were in a very similar position eight years ago and Paul Nicholls came back and beat us, so we’re not taking anything for granted just yet.”

    The sponsors make the Mullins-trained Fairyhouse scorer Macdermott their 6-1 favourite for the Scottish National, with Mr Incredible’s odds slashed from 8-1 from 16-1 after he was left in the race at Monday’s confirmation stage.

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    Mullins said: “He started slowly and only did a lap before he came down, so he didn’t exert himself too much. He’ll probably take his chance again on Saturday.

    “He actually jumped The Chair perfectly and ran into the back of a horse that made a mistake.

    “He didn’t get a great start and nothing went right, but it might be all for luck.

    “It’s a huge step up in class for Macdermott, but he has always looked a staying chaser and the extended trip should bring out the best in him.”

    Ontheropes, Spanish Harlem, Klark Kent and We’llhavewan are the trainer’s other Scottish National hopefuls, while Westport Cove, Bialystok, Ocastle Des Mottes and Alvaniy are all possible representatives in the £100,000 Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle.

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    “I don’t know what will run at this stage, we’ll have to have a look at the weights when they come out, but at the moment everything is possible,” Mullins added.

    “There’s a chance Paul (Townend) will be over and there’s a chance plenty of our jockeys will be over, I’d say. I’ve never been to Ayr, but I’m thinking I’ll be travelling over this weekend anyway.”

    The only previous Irish-based trainer to be crowned champion in Britain was the great Vincent O’Brien, who claimed back-to-back titles in the 1950s.

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  • Gilligan so proud of another fine effort from Buddy One Gilligan so proud of another fine effort from Buddy One

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    “He came home 100 per cent from it, fresh and well, I’m over the moon with the run,” said Gilligan.

    “It’s a pity one had to pass us, but we’re delighted with him and he’s very, very well after it.

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    He said: “We had a great time in Cheltenham and Aintree and these horses are hard to come by, we’re just hoping next time we come to England somebody will say ‘will you take a horse or two for me!’.”

    Gilligan is father to Jack, who claims 7lb, and also Danny, who claims 5lb and rides predominantly for Gordon Elliott.

    Both jockeys were in demand throughout the Aintree meeting, with Danny partnering Elliott’s Chemical Energy in the Grand National.

    Gilligan said of his sons: “I have two lads riding on the big stage, Jack has been riding for us here and Danny is riding for Gordon and it’s a great old feeling.

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