Ruby Walsh rode his second winner at this year's Randox Health Grand National Festival, and, remarkably, it looked even easier than the first.
His win yesterday on Kemboy in the G1 Betway Bowl was impressive, but Min's success in the G1 JLT sChase oozed superiority over his toiling rivals, including runner-up Politologue. Twelve months ago the positions were reversed, and Min's trainer, Willie Mullins, said: "John Hales [the owner of Politologue] has just been across and said 'We need a decider next year'."
Min (2/1f) made all the running and won by 20 lengths from Politologue (5/2).
To the comment that Min's victory was the easiest of the week so far, Mullins said rhetorically: "Was Kemboy not impressive enough for you?
"Yes, he [Min] was impressive, and the school around Cheltenham [when only fifth to Altior in the G1 Betway Queen Mother Chase] did him well!
"The change of tactics, and letting him go back to just enjoying himself worked well, and Ruby said that from fence to fence he was just getting more confident.
"I always gave him a chance in this race - last year's race was close enough, and I felt that if we did things really right, and often times it is just one mistake that makes a difference, he was coming here in good form. He didn't have a hard race at Cheltenham when he sulked because we wanted him do what he didn't want to do, and today he just grew horns when he was allowed to do his own thing. That suited him.
"He seems to be as good over two and a half miles as he is over two miles, and we're wondering whether we ought to be going over a little further. People are saying would he get another few furlongs and that would put him in the picture for the King George [on Boxing Day at Kempton].
"I think he's back to his best, and that may have been his best performance. He coped with everything fantastically before the race and looked really well - he has a fantastic summer coat on him already."
MIN-IMUM EFFORT, MAXIMUM REWARD
Min, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh, justified 2/1 favouritism to take the G1 £250,000 JLT Chase by a highly impressive 20 lengths from Politologue.
Walsh said: "We changed things at Cheltenham with him [he finished fifth behind Altior]. I was tired of being the mouse for Altior the cat to chase, but it didn't work. You've got to try something new when what you are doing isn't working, but it didn't work. I didn't think he jumped as well at Cheltenham as he can do either. But we schooled him over hurdles earlier this week and he attacked his fences today like a much happier horse.
"When he shortened into the last down the back and got distance through the air I thought, 'that's more like it'. He was doing plenty; he was a bit on my hands but he's always a live horse who wants to go forward. But the further we were going up the straight the faster we were going, even without asking him. He's a very honest horse who gives you whatever he has, anyway. It was a really good performance.
"Like everyone who gets a bit older, he's probably got a little slower, but it was a good performance and having been touched off here last year, it's nice to win it this time.
"He's won a couple of good races in Ireland this year. Just because he wasn't winning over here, doesn't mean he wasn't winning good races.
"He's usually a very good, accurate jumper who's quick with his feet and can take a half-stride when he needs to, and that was what was disappointing about Cheltenham - he didn't do that, whereas today he was bombing down there and you weren't even worried about the jumps: you knew he was going to do it."
"He got into a lovely rhythm today and jumped like a buck. Willie took the ear plugs out today and he was good and revved. I was a bit of a passenger for the first half mile, but you don't mind getting runaway with on something like this that knows where he is going and has the power and scope that he has. He is clever enough horse and, looking at him there, knows he has done well today.
"We always thought he was a really good horse, and he is, but it just goes to show you what a horse Altior is. Without Altior, Min would have won a Supreme and a Champion Chase.
"I have been lucky to ride an awful lot of good horses throughout my career. I love winning big races - the Bowl yesterday, the Aintree Hurdle, this race today, tomorrow is the Grand National - and racing like any sport is about the big occasions. When you get used to winning on them, you like to win more, and it has been lean enough the last 18 months because of injury. I get a kick out of it, I love it."
POLITOLOGUE NO MATCH FOR MIN AS LAST YEAR'S ONE-TWO FINISH IN REVERSE ORDER
Queen Mother Champion Chase second Politologue (5/2) was no match at all for a back-to-his-best Min (2/1 favourite), whom he had beaten narrowly in last year's G1 JLT Chase, but Paul Nicholls was happy with his 20-length second, which added a useful £52,775 to the trainer's title bid.
Nicholls, who spotted that the grey returned with blood trickling from his nostrils, said: "Min looked unbeatable today but Politologue has run all right. He's beaten Waiting Patiently, and that's red-hot form. He's in good form at the moment. I don't know if John (Hales, owner) will want to go again with him, but we'll see.
"There's not a lot really, but Sandown is a possibility. We haven't made any plans for Cyrname yet, but it would want to be really softish ground to run him there. Politologue wouldn't mind better ground and it's a £150,000 Grade 1. I don't know, but we'll have a talk.
"He's done plenty and he's a hard horse to place but he always runs really well. Next year I wouldn't mind having a go at the Tingle Creek because he's got a bit of confidence and he's going really well."
JEFFERSON RETAINS PATIENT APPROACH WITH STABLE STAR
Ruth Jefferson was pleased with the performance of Waiting Patiently (9/4) who finished third to the impressive 2/1 favourite Min in the £250,000 G1 JLT Chase.
Held up by Brian Hughes, the eight-year-old son of Flemensfirth could never land a blow in the two mile and four furlong event and was nine lengths behind Paul Nicholls' Politologue (5/2), who finished second.
Min, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh, scored by 20 lengths.
Waiting Patiently has endured a difficult campaign having been brought-down on his seasonal debut in the G1 King George VI Chase and subsequent fast ground conditions this winter not playing to his strengths. Jefferson may consider one more run this season, but the trainer hinted that he won't be seen again until next term.
Jefferson said: "It was not to be today for Waiting Patiently.
"When he came to us, he was quite a keen horse who took a lot of settling. Nowadays, he is a far more relaxed horse who settles very well, so we might change things. We'll go away and think about it.
"We put the cheek-pieces on today, but the main thing is that we usually hold him up in races and maybe we might just bury him in a little bit and get him in and amongst horses.
"Sometimes horses get too used to what they have usually done and a change is sometimes necessary. I'm not complaining, he has run alright, he got round and has finished third.
"Punchestown will probably come soon enough for him. He usually only runs three races per year and this time he has run two and a half times after the King George!
"We'll see, but I think it is unlikely that he will run again this season. We were also considering running him at Auteuil in May or June.
"It is possible, but it is a tough one. This season has probably not gone as we would've hoped, but there is no need to then start panicking and running him here there and everywhere.
"It has been a bit of a funny year as he didn't come in till late. He went to Kempton first time out which is something you don't do apparently! He got brought-down and from then on, nothing has really went the way we wanted.
"We've had a very dry winter and hopefully he'll come in this year in July instead of August and he'll start cantering straight away instead of going on the walker.
"We'll therefore be ready for when those better races start popping up at the beginning of the season and then we'll go from there."
3.25pm JLT Melling Chase (Grade 1)
1 Min (Susannah Ricci) Willie Mullins IRE 8-11-07 Ruby Walsh 2/1 fav
2 Politologue (John Hales) Paul Nicholls 8-11-07 Harry Cobden 5/2
3 Waiting Patiently (Richard Collins) Ruth Jefferson 8-11-07 Brian Hughes 9/4
Distances: 20, 9
Tote Win: £2.70 Places: £1.70, £1.70 Exacta: £4.80