Wexford on a cold Tuesday afternoon may not be the most glamorous of venues but there was some top class action yesterday, with the re-appearance of a Cheltenham Festival winner. Champion Bumper hero, Briar Hill, made his seasonal debut in the Supporters Club AGM & Table Quiz Maiden Hurdle and the Willie Mullins horse duly secured victory for favourite backers. The five-year-old was last seen scooting clear of the field to win the Champion Bumper at the Festival and an exciting career now beckons over hurdles.
Ruby Walsh was at Wexford to ride the horse on Tuesday and while he clearly beat very little, he certainly did it in good style without coming off the bridle. He jumped well on his first run over the hurdles and quickened up in nice style when asked to by Walsh just before the final obstacle. Mullins was quick to say afterwards that he will improve for the run but it was certainly a good starting point for a clearly talented horse.
The Champion Bumper form has already been franked a number of times this season which has raised excitement about the potential of Briar Hill. The Liquidator finished fourth in the Bumper at the Festival in March but has already won twice this season over hurdles, including the Supreme Novices Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham over the weekend. Regal Encore finished second in the Champion Bumper last season and he looked very impressive on Monday when winning his novice hurdle debut at Plumpton on Monday.
The Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Festival is the likely aim for Briar Hill and that is already shaping up to be a hot renewal in 2014. The Mullins horse was trimmed from 14/1 to 12/1 for the Festival opener following his Wexford success and it will be fascinating to follow his progress. The aforementioned Regal Encore and The Liquidator are also well fancied for the Supreme at this stage, although the Nicky Henderson trained West Wizard is the currently jolly at around 8/1.