Willie Mullins strengthened his grasp on the Weatherbys Champion Bumper when Ballyburn powered home to land the Hospitality At Festival 2023 (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race at Punchestown.
An impressive winner of his sole point-to-point, he was sent off the 7-4 second-favourite behind Irish Panther in the hands of Patrick Mullins for his rules bow.
Keen throughout when tracking the pace-setting Quantum Storm, the son of Flemensfirth took some time to hit top gear once entering the straight, but had the after-burners switched firmly on at the finish in registering a going-away two-and-a-quarter-length success.
The winner was cut to 7-1 from 14s for the Cheltenham Festival bumper by Paddy Power, which means the Closutton handler is now responsible for five of the top six in the market for the Prestbury Park Grade One he won 12 months ago with Facile Vega.
“It was a very good performance from the horse and jockey. He was too keen the whole way and to produce a run like that after running so keen for a mile and three-quarters showed that he has a lot left in the locker,” said Mullins.
“He’s a horse that we’re really looking forward to going over jumps. He looks a real chaser in the making, however he probably booked a ticket to Cheltenham with that run.
“He looks an exciting recruit for Ronnie Bartlett and David Manasseh, who is a football agent.
“It looked a fair race, in very tough ground.”
Mullins was also on the scoresheet when the Danny Mullins-ridden Hauturiere (5-1) took advantage of favourite Harmonya Maker unseating Jordan Gainford to claim the Listed Apple’s Jade Mares Novice Hurdle
“It was another fine tactical ride by Danny, I thought,” said Mullins.
“They went off very fast and anything that was up there early on couldn’t stay the pace. It took a lot of getting at that pace and she’s shown us that she’s a stayer.
“She was very keen early on in her career, but now she’s learning how to settle and race.
“She might get an entry in a handicap at Cheltenham or maybe wait for Fairyhouse. We’ll see what sort of rating she gets.
“You could look at the Martin Pipe or Coral Cup.”
Stealthy Tom enhanced Enda Bolger’s fine record in the ARKequine Aquatabs Inline P.P. Hogan Memorial Cross Country Chase.
The Howardstown handler has won seven of the last 10 running’s of the this contest with the last four victories all on behalf of leading owner JP McManus.
And it was the green and gold silks that were carried to success once again by Simon Torrens as he came home a length and a quarter clear of 7-2 favourite Singing Banjos aboard the 8-1 shot.
“He ran a lovely race here in the spring. I was giving the other two a better chance because he hadn’t run since last August in Killarney,” said Bolger.
“He got a lovely ride from Simon and he was nice and patient on him. He’s only seven so he’s going to be a nice horse for this game for the future.
“I was happy I had him in today because the other two boys underperformed. He’s found his niche so we’ll stick with these with him.”
A trip to the cross-country equivalent at the Cheltenham Festival is not out of the question for the winner, but it appears that all roads lead back to Kildare track for the La Touche Cup during the Punchestown Festival.
“We’ll see, I’ll talk to the boss and see what they want to do – whether the experience would do him good,” added Bolger.
“Definitely all roads will lead to the La Touche with him and he would go on nicer ground as well which is a plus for the spring meeting.
“Cheltenham is a pretty hot race and we have to see where Galvin is going to appear as well. We’re only rated 105 but he excels over those.
“He hadn’t run for a while so we’ll see how he comes out of this and make a decision. The entries don’t close for a couple of weeks anyway. He’d be the only one for it.”
Torrens was also aboard Patrick Foley’s Verdant Place (5-2 favourite) when winning the David Trundley Artist At Punchestown Handicap Hurdle.