Saint Sam was a poignant winner of the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park for Willie Mullins.

Maureen Mullins died at the age of 94 earlier this week and the wife of legendary trainer Paddy and mother of perennial champion Willie was a former director at the track.

Saint Sam, having his first run of the campaign, never saw another rival in the hands of Paul Townend as the 10-11 favourite beat Riviere D’etel by eight and a half lengths.

“Granny would have enjoyed that and it’s a pity that she’s not here to be in the (winning) picture,” said Patrick Mullins, who is assistant to his father.

“It was a great performance and great to have the owners Ed and Mary Ware here.

“The Red Mills Chase was one of the races we pinpointed at the start of the year.

“Small fields suit him – he likes to get on with things and wears the hood. He’s hot and we were a bit worried that he’d be a bit fresh on his first run and do too much on the heavy ground.

“Paul got a few breathers into him.

“Those Grade Twos or Grade Threes are where he’s most comfortable and he could go to Fairyhouse.

“He is a better chaser than he was a hurdler and loves jumping.”

Lantry Lady (13-8) looks a smart mare for the future as she maintained her unbeaten record in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle.

Gone are the days the race is seen as a Champion Hurdle Trial won by the likes of Hardy Eustace, Macs Joy and Danoli but for a mare the Grade Three black type will prove very valuable indeed.

Trained by Henry de Bromhead and ridden by Rachael Blackmore, she had won her only previous race, also at Gowran, by a wide-margin in testing ground.

Doyen Ta Win tried to make all but was beaten three out which left just Gordon Elliott’s What’s Up Darling as the only rival left but he found the receipt of a stone too much and there was almost 10 lengths between them at the line.

“She’s obviously a really nice mare and I’m delighted for the Marigas (owners) who are great supporters of ours,” said De Bromhead.

“She was impressive here last year in her maiden hurdle and then we put her away as she was a bit immature.

“She’s just had a couple of niggles so it’s taken us a while to get her going again. I was concerned about fitness and it was only her second run.

“She’s confirmed what she did in her maiden hurdle and stepped forward again. She’s a lovely mare to go breeding with in years to come.”

As for future plans he said: “She’s entered in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and we’d love to go. It’s a step up in trip, but she would strike us at home as all she does is stay.

“I’d say she definitely wants a good ease in the ground so we would be cautious of that.

“The guys would love to go to Cheltenham and I think she is entitled to.”

Willie Mullins’ Saint Sam will represent the Closutton stable in the Red Mills Chase on Saturday at a track close to the heart of his late mother, Maureen.

Maureen Mullins died earlier this week aged 94, leaving behind her a remarkable racing legacy as the matriarch of the sport’s most successful family.

She was formerly a director of Gowran Park racecourse and a long-standing shareholder as well as a regular presence in support of her late husband, Paddy, and then her children and grandchildren as their careers developed.

There will have been many happy memories shared between the family on Red Mills Chase day, an event her Willie Mullins has won no less than seven times.

This time he is represented by Saint Sam, one of five runners in the Grade Two contest run over two and a half miles.

Owned by Edward Ware, Saint Sam is no stranger to the winner’s enclosure, winning four of his eight starts over fences.

His chief rival is Gordon Elliott’s Riviere D’etel, last seen finishing runner-up to Allegorie De Vassy in the Listed Opera Hat Chase at Naas seven days ago.

“Riviere D’etel is going right-handed, which she certainly enjoys,” said Elliott.

“I would say this trip is probably more her thing than last weekend (two miles), too. She has come out of the race very well and we are very happy with her.”

Elliott also runs Embittered, with Sam Ewing taking the ride on him as Jack Kennedy partners Riviere D’etel.

“Embittered struggled a bit in high-class handicaps the last twice, but he won nicely in Navan before Christmas,” Elliott said.

“It was a quality effort. He’s got a bit to do on ratings, but the trip is right and he’s in good shape and hopefully he gives a good account of himself.”

Elliott will have become very used to seeing Maureen Mullins at racecourses across Ireland and paid tribute to her ahead of the Gowran meeting.

He said: “Red Mills Day would have been traditionally a big day in the calendar in Gowran and it’s always a great day.

“This year it will have an altogether different feel to it following the passing of Mrs Mullins, who was such an amazing woman and an iconic figure.”

Gareth Connolly, CEO Connolly’s Red Mills, added: “This year’s renewal will be an emotional one as we remember Maureen Mullins, former director and current shareholder at Gowran Park, who passed away this week.

“Mrs Mullins was one of the most familiar faces at Gowran Park and racecourses all over the country and her legacy will continue to be felt for generations to come.

“We at Connolly’s Red Mills and the team at Gowran Park extend our heartfelt sympathies to Mrs Mullins’ family and friends and remember her at this time.”

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