Florida Pearl produced a historyic win in the Irish Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday.
The Willie Mullins-trained 12-year-old, ridden by Richard Johnson, won the race for a record fourth time. He also won the showpiece race in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Willie Mullins reported the horse fit and well after his run on Sunday, and told HHO: “He’s been going well this season, but with a Grade 1 race you can never expect them to win, you have to just hope. I was absolutely thrilled with his run and improvement”.
Florida Pearl’s next outing will be the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. This will be his fourth attempt at the race, in which he came second in 2000 and third in 1999. His trainer is realistic about Florida Pearl’s chances, and told HHO that he thought Best Mate would win, with Jair du Cochet second and hopefully, Florida Pearl third.
“The horse has beaten Best Mate, but I think that the conditions at Cheltenham are more likely to suit Best Mate rather than him. Florida Pearl’s better than he has been in the last three or four years. He’s regained his form and so who knows.”
There had been murmurings at the beginning of the season about the possibility of retiring Florida Pearl after the Henessy Gold Cup, but Mullins was adamant that there had been no conversation about retiring the horse, although as a 12-year-old, this might be his last season.
If all goes according to plan, the gelding will run at Aintree in April and then at Punchestown later in the year.