Trained by: Willie Mullins
Owner : Greenstar Syndicate
Jockeys: Ruby Walsh, Richie Kiely, David Casey, Paddy Mullins
Dam: Crash Approach
Did you know: The Willie Mullins-trained Adamant Approach may not go down in history as being even close to one of the best horses that Mullins has trained, but during his long and dramatic racing career, he acquired a massive fan base. From making a winning racecourse debut as a six-year-old up until gaining his final win as a 13-year-old, he thrilled the masses and impressed with his enthusiasm, consistency and longevity. History will perhaps best remember him for a dramatic defeat rather than a victory, as in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2002, he looked set to lower the colours of the Irish banker Like-A-Butterfly only to fall at the final flight. There was a happy ending to the Adamant Approach story though, as he hit a remarkable run of form at the veteran stage of his career, winning a total of eight times as a 12 and 13-year-old.
In common with the majority of Willie Mullins-trained horses, the career of Adamant Approach began in a bumper. It was on February 6th 2000 at Leopardstown, the same day that his illustrious stable mate Florida Pearl gained the second of his four wins in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup, that Adamant Approach made his debut. He was sent off as the joint favourite with Risk Assessor, who himself developed into a classy performer, but it was Adamant Approach that easily prevailed by 5½ lengths. After that impressive performance he was considered a leading contender for that seasons Cheltenham Bumper, but he missed the race allowing his stable mate Joe Cullen to prevail.
However, the significant promise of his first racecourse appearance was not immediately fulfilled over hurdles the following season, far from it. Despite being sent off at as short as 1/3 and 4/11, he failed to get his head in front in his five starts during that season. But the perseverance of his connections would be rewarded the very next season.
Pierse Hurdle Glory
It was October 2001 that Adamant Approach broke his duck over hurdles in a moderate maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse. Following that win he ran creditably in a handful of handicap hurdles before he caught the eye when finishing a promising fourth in the ultra-competitive Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle at Ascot. That pleasing effort saw him sent off the well-fancied third favourite for the Pierse Hurdle in January 2002. Under Ruby Walsh, the fast improving eight-year-old ran out the authoritative 1½ lengths winner from Native Scout. That performance encouraged Willie Mullins to step him up in class to the Grade 2 Deloitte and Touche Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown the following month. On that occasion he found Like-A-Butterfly to be 11 lengths too good for him. However, Mullins was quietly confident that his charge would be capable of closing that gap when they re-opposed on better ground in the Supreme Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Like-A-Butterfly had been unbeaten in her seven previous racecourse outings before Cheltenham and was understandably considered to be the Irish banker of the whole Cheltenham meeting, eventually being sent off at 7/4. Adamant Approach on the other hand was allowed to start at 12/1. However these odds looked set to be floored approaching the final hurdle as Adamant Approach had been pushed into a narrow lead with Ruby Walsh yet to raise his whip, only for him to take a liberty at the flight and fall, allowing Like-A-Butterfly to grittily maintain her unbeaten record. Opinion was almost universal that Willie Mullins' charge would have won had he stood up but alas, one of Adamant Approach few opportunities to win at the highest level had passed him by. The following month, he twice attempted to redeem himself at the highest level at the Punchestown Festival, but the best he could do was finish third in the Champion Novice Hurdle. Many people were disappointed that he failed to fare better at Punchestown, but when one considers that he started the season with a rating of 111, it would be very harsh indeed to say that he had anything other than a hugely-successful season.
The following season, the connections of Adamant Approach opted to send their pride and joy over the larger obstacles. He got off the mark in that sphere at the second attempt at Punchestown before being thrown into the deep end in the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival. Unfortunately, he got no further than the second obstacle on that occasion, but he got back on the winning trail later that month when taking a novice chase at Cork in good style. Three weeks later, a freakishly small turn-out for the Grade 1 Powers Gold Cup resulted in Adamant Approach being sent off at 30/100 to account for his two rivals, but in a cruel turn of events, he fell at the penultimate fence when in front and firmly in command. It was undoubtedly a bitter pill to swallow for his connections having had Grade 1 glory snatched from their hands on two occasions in just over a year.
It is likely that the fall in Fairyhouse affected his confidence as amazingly, he failed to win a race during the next two seasons, but began to rediscover his old spark in October 2005 and set out on a prolonged campaign that really endeared him to the racing public. The first indication that he was about to come into form came on his second start of the season in the competitive Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham where he finished a promising fourth to the ill-fated Lingo. A poor effort in the Pierse Hurdle was followed by a highly-creditable third in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. He finished in the frame in competitive handicap hurdles at both the Fairyhouse Easter Festival and the Punchestown Festival on his next two starts and at this point, nobody would have thought it premature to let him out to grass for the summer, but his connections persevered and were handsomely rewarded during the summer months and beyond.
Back To Winning Ways
He gained his first win for over three years when easily prevailing in a conditions hurdle at Navan in May 2006 and he followed that effort up with two solid runs in the Grade 3 Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary and the Galway Hurdle. He continued to run with credit throughout the summer months until he took advantage of the eclipse of Ansar to easily prevail in a conditions hurdle at Killarney in early-September. Later that month, he showed his abundant versatility by making a winning return to chasing after a 22 month sabbatical in a valuable handicap chase at the Listowel Harvest Festival. The following month, Adamant Approach completed a 'grand slam' of wins over hurdles, fences and now on the Flat when he won a 14f qualified riders race at Galway by an easy seven lengths under a patient Patrick Mullins ride.
13 Years Young
On the eve of his thirteenth birthday, Adamant Approach showed that he was far from finished when easily winning a handicap hurdle at Punchestown under Richie Kiely. That win resulted in him being raised to a career-high hurdle rating of 140 and when he was declared to run in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier on last Sunday's card at Leopardstown, few people gave him a serious chance. At 13 years of age, he was attempting to defy a career-high mark over a trip that he had never attempted, as well as having the inexperienced 17-year-old, Patrick Mullins in the plate with the likes of Ruby Walsh and Tony McCoy in opposition. However, despite all of these obstacles to overcome, both horse and rider put in exemplary performances to get up in the dying strides to snatch victory by a head. From there, Mullins opted to put him away and target the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival. With Patrick again in the saddle, the veteran ran arguably one of the races of his life to finish a close third, with his stamina perhaps just giving way in the closing stages. However, Adamant Approach wasn't done yet, as less than a month later, he gained his seventh win of the season in a conditions hurdle at the Fairyhouse Easter Festival. It was a genuinely remarkable season and indeed at its halfway point, his achievements were acknowledged with him being featured among the nominees for the Horse/Owner of The Year Award at the Irish Stablestaff Association Awards.
A Final Campaign
Mullins kept Adamant Approach on the go through the summer of 2007 once again and he continued to do his connections proud. Indeed, he made a successful return to fencing in a conditions chase at Killarney in July and he went on to acquit himself well without winning for the remainder of the year. The curtain was brought down on his glorious career when finishing in mid-division in the Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown just a fortnight into his 14th year and while his fans would miss him, the veteran owed nobody anything and everyone was pleased that he retired sound with his enthusiasm very much intact. It was a testament to the skill of Willie Mullins as a trainer, as well as Adamant Approaches constitution, that he has remained in top form for so long. In total, he ran no less 66 times, winning 13 races and over €300,000 in prize money.