Impaire Et Passe’s thrilling victory in the Aintree Hurdle gives Willie Mullins leg up in the pulsating battle to be crowned Champion Trainer

  • Willie Mullins aiming to become first Irishman to win the crown since 1954
  • Impaire Et Passe netted £107,400 for winning the Grade One race at Aintree 
  • Paul Nicholls is currently first in the table, just ahead of rival Dan Skelton

How costly might it all be? They know all about tight title races in this city, so there was something symbolic about the breathless outcome to the Aintree Hurdle: the impact could be yet be profound.

Impaire Et Passe, trained by Willie Mullins, had a nose and a short head separating him from Bob Olinger, the apple of Henry de Bromhead’s eye, and Dan Skelton’s Langer Dan.

This was everything a Grade One horse race should be, competitive and spell-binding.

This was the theme of the day, with a bumper crowd treated to the energy that was missing at Cheltenham: Sir Gino lifted the embattled Nicky Henderson’s spirits when taking the Juvenile Hurdle while Gerri Colombe displayed his granite disposition to pilfer the Aintree Bowl.

But let’s go back to the showpiece contest and those miniscule distances. Impaire Et Passe responding to jockey Paul Townend’s urgings to put his head down on the line was the difference between £107,400 for winning and the £22,100 Langer Dan got for finishing third.

Willie Mullins claimed a vital victory with Il Etait Temps (L) in the Aintree Hurdle on Thursday

Willie Mullins claimed a vital victory with Il Etait Temps (L) in the Aintree Hurdle on Thursday

In this pulsating battle to be crowned Champion Trainer, every last penny counts.

What made it all the more dramatic was the fact Impaire Et Passe had to withstand a lengthy steward’s enquiry, much to the chagrin of beaten connections, before his victory was confirmed.

‘When I looked at all the different angles, I thought we would be okay,’ said Mullins, who enjoyed a profitable afternoon with another Grade One victory coming from Il Etait Temps and a valuable second place in the Red Rum handicap courtesy of Saint Roi.

‘When Paul passed Harry (Skelton) over the last hurdle, it looked like it was going to be very hard to disqualify us. On the balance of it all, I thought we deserved it. If things keep going well here, we will have to be going to Ayr.’ 

Mullins is keeping his cards close to his chest but the very fact he indicated the Scottish Grand National meeting is in his thoughts shows that Paul Nicholls and Skelton — currently first and second in the table — can feel the heat of his breath on their necks. 

Nicholls, who got one over Mullins with Sans Bruit in the Red Rum, is favourite to win his fifteenth crown but the landscape could look very different in the next 48 hours, with Mullins aiming to become the first Irishman since Vincent O’Brien in 1954 to win this crown.

Henderson, had things gone to plan, could well have been involved in this shootout but the virus that took out his Cheltenham team last month proved costly. No wonder, then, he was so thrilled to see Sir Gino winning and Shishkin running with great credit behind Gerri Colombe.

‘The most important thing is they’ve got to run good solid races,’ said Henderson. ‘The fact Shishkin hasn’t won isn’t the be all and end all. One swallow didn’t make a summer with Sir Gino but Shishkin backed it up. I’m so relieved for everyone.’

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