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Minella Indo could bid for Gold Cup double at Punchestown

Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Minella Indo remains on course for the newly-sponsored Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup on April 28.

The eight-year-old led home stablemate A Plus Tard to provide trainer Henry de Bromhead with a one-two in last month’s blue riband.

With A Plus Tard a possible runner at Aintree next week, Minella Indo will be a hot favourite to claim another big-race success in the 250,000 euro feature on day two of Ireland’s end-of-season meeting.

De Bromhead said: “It (Gold Cup) was a hard race, as you would expect, and A Plus Tard pushed him all the way, but he seems to be good since.

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“Like all the horses that ran in Cheltenham, we will give him as much time as he needs and just see how he is before getting going again, but we would hopefully be returning to Punchestown with him.

“He won the Grade One three-mile novice hurdle at the Festival two years ago, following up from the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, so he does like it around Punchestown.

“We will see how he is and discuss it with the Maloneys (owners), but there is a good chance (he’ll run) at this stage.”

Minella Indo’s potential rivals include dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo, who was third when bidding for the hat-trick, and his stablemate Kemboy, who got the better of Al Boum Photo in the most recent Punchestown Gold Cup in 2019 under the retiring Ruby Walsh.

As well as taking over sponsorship of the Punchestown Gold Cup, Ladbrokes will continue its sponsorship of the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle the following afternoon.

Flooring Porter is bound for Punchestown
Flooring Porter is bound for Punchestown (Michael Steele/PA)

The likely star attraction in that Grade One contest is Gavin Cromwell’s Flooring Porter, who made all the running in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

“Punchestown is definitely the aim for Flooring Porter. He’s good. He came out of Cheltenham fine and is back in full work. We’re happy with him so all roads lead to Punchestown,” said Cromwell.

“It is really just about getting him back in the routine. He’s obviously very fit so it’s only a matter of ticking him over, but it doesn’t take very much to get ready.”

Flooring Porter was ridden by Danny Mullins at Cheltenham after Cromwell’s stable jockey Jonathan Moore stood himself down on the morning of the race due to injury.

Cromwell added: “It was a huge shame for Jonathan, but he is a big part of the team.

“We’re optimistic Jonathan will be back from injury to renew his partnership after Danny Mullins filled in so well at Cheltenham. He’s still quite sore at the moment, but will hopefully be fine by the time Punchestown comes around.”

Punchestown plan for Cromwell’s Cheltenham stars

Gavin Cromwell has identified Punchestown as the next port of call for his two Cheltenham Festival winners, Flooring Porter and Vanillier.

Flooring Porter made all to dominate the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle, while Vanillier was an emphatic winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

There are similar races for the pair at the County Kildare track’s big meeting at the end of April.

“The horses have come back good. The plan is Punchestown for both Flooring Porter and Vanillier,” said Cromwell.

“There’s the three-mile novice and the three-mile stayers’. They are the obvious races for them. They’ve come out of Cheltenham good, so that’s the plan.

“It was fantastic.”

Vanillier was a second winner of the week at Cheltenham for Gavin Cromwell
Vanillier was a second winner of the week at Cheltenham for Gavin Cromwell (Michael Steele/PA)

Crowmell felt sorry for his other three runners, who never got the chance to show their best.

“We brought five over. I suppose the other three were unfortunate,” said the County Meath handler.

“Darver Star was going OK (in the Marsh Novices’ Chase) until he got a bit of a fright and ran no race after. Gabynako was hampered by a faller (in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle) and was out at the first, and Wolf Prince (County Hurdle) had a rough old race.

“Thankfully the other two were terrific.”

Danny Mullins steps in to floor Stayers’ rivals

Flooring Porter provided Danny Mullins with an unexpected Cheltenham Festival victory on the third day of the showpiece meeting.

Contesting the feature race, the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle, Flooring Porter was the intended mount of Jonathan Moore but it was Mullins who got the leg-up when Moore felt an injury sustained in a previous fall would leave him unable to ride the horse to the best of his abilities.

Such a turn of events proved to be a stroke of luck for Mullins, who expertly steered the six-year-old to a three-and-a-quarter-length success at 12-1 for trainer Gavin Cromwell.

The Marsh Novices’ Chase provided another unexpected result as the odds-on favourite Envoi Allen fell at the fourth fence, sacrificing his flawless record and leaving an opportunity for Nicky Henderson’s Chantry House he was not to forego.

Elsewhere Rachael Blackmore’s dominance continued as she was victorious for Henry de Bromhead in both the Ryanair Chase and the Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, aboard Allaho and Telmesomethinggirl respectively.

Mrs Milner was another popular winner as she took the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle for trainer Paul Nolan and resurgent jockey Bryan Cooper, while Mount Ida had to be seen to be believed in the Kim Muir.

Picture of the day

Jack Kennedy cuts a lone figure as he walks back up the course after falling from 4-9 favourite Envoi Allen in the Marsh Novices’ Chase
Jack Kennedy cuts a lone figure as he walks back up the course after falling from 4-9 favourite Envoi Allen in the Marsh Novices’ Chase (David Davies/PA)
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Quote of the day

“Everybody knows how hard it is to get a good horse. We came across this lad by accident, he was a very cheap store so it’s a bit of a fairytale really – it just goes to show dreams can still happen” – Gavin Cromwell after Flooring Porter’s success in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.

Performance of the day

Allaho, ridden by Rachael Blackmore, on his way to winning the Ryanair Chase
Allaho, ridden by Rachael Blackmore, on his way to winning the Ryanair Chase (Tim Goode/PA)

Allaho was an emphatic winner of the Ryanair Chase for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore, soaring to a 12-length victory after leading from the third fence to the line. Though his jump at the final fence was not completely fluent, the seven-year-old had been so bold and dominant from the tapes that only a tumble would have thrown a rope to the distant chasing pack.

Ride of the day

Jack Kennedy clears the last in front on Mount Ida
Jack Kennedy clears the last in front on Mount Ida (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Backers of Mount Ida – and there were plenty as she was sent off the 3-1 favourite in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup – would have been forgiven for throwing away their tickets after four fences. She was jumping markedly out to her right and was almost tailed off before Jack Kennedy produced one of the most memorable rides in Festival history. Having hit the maximum 999-1 in-running, Mount Ida sliced through the field before hitting the front on the bridle. Quite how much she will go up in the handicap is for another day.

Tweet of the day

Liverpool’s James Milner was following the action closely – he was always going to be backing Mrs Milner!

What’s next?

Al Boum Photo is poised to bid for a famous hat-trick
Al Boum Photo is poised to bid for a famous hat-trick (Tim Goode/PA)


Al Boum Photo will bid to emulate greats such as Best Mate and Arkle when he attempts to win a third successive Gold Cup on the final day of the Festival. His chief rivals are Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard, piloted by the in-form Rachael Blackmore, and Nicky Henderson’s Champ. Elsewhere on the card the leading four-year-old hurdlers battle it out in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, with Zanahiyr and Tritonic heading the field, and Elimay is well-fancied for the Grade Two Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase.

Flooring Porter powers to all-the-way Stayers’ Hurdle success

Danny Mullins finally got his first Cheltenham Festival winner when making the most of a chance ride on Flooring Porter in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.

Mullins had gone so close many times in the past, but was fortunate enough to pick up the mount after Jonathan Moore, who led the horse up, had to miss the ride through injury.

Flooring Porter, trained by Gavin Cromwell, was a handicapper earlier in the season – but showed he was much better than that when winning the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.

He made all that day and the same tactics were deployed again to great effect.

No horse could get close enough to threaten the 12-1 winner, who powered up the hill to cross the line three and a quarter lengths ahead of Sire Du Berlais.

Paisley Park, winner in 2019, tried hard in defeat, a length and three-quarters away in third place. Beacon Edge was another half a length back in fourth.

A recent fall had left Moore him facing a race against time to make Cheltenham. He had a sit on his proposed big-race mount, but declared himself unfit and recommended Mullins to Cromwell.

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Cromwell praised the selflessness of Moore and said: “It was a huge performance and a smashing ride. It was a big blow for Jonathan, he made the decision himself that he wouldn’t do the horse justice.

“He suggested Danny would be suited to the horse and it was all down to Jonny’s instructions.

“Hats off to Johnny, he’s so unselfish – he thought he wouldn’t do the horse justice, so I’m very grateful. He actually sat on him.”

Cromwell had mentioned prior to the Festival he was worried about the fact there was no rail the whole way round, as Flooring Porter has lugged left in the past. But there were no signs of any misdemeanours.

“He ran straight and true today, bar going right at the last. Other than that he was grand,” said Cromwell.

“He won a Grade B handicap at Navan when it wasn’t the plan to make the running. He decided on his tactics so we went along with it.

“We won the Champion Hurdle a few years ago so to win another championship race is fantastic.

“The owners are a syndicate from Galway, they are a great bunch and it’s an awful pity they can’t be here.

“Everybody knows how hard it is to get a good horse. We came across this lad by accident, he was a very cheap store so it’s a bit of a fairytale really – it just goes to show dreams can still happen.”

Mullins was also quick to pay tribute to Moore.

Flooring Porter and Danny Mullins were poetry in motion
Flooring Porter and Danny Mullins were poetry in motion (Michael Steele/PA)

He said: “It was fantastic. He’s a very good horse. I got the call-up about an hour beforehand and in fairness to Jonathan Moore he gave me every bit of information he had about the horse.

“Credit to him. He knew he wasn’t in good shape this morning and stood himself down – it’s the mark of a great man.

“Jonathan wanted everything to go well and I’m sure he’ll be back for Punchestown and well able to reunite the partnership.

“It’s fantastic to get my first winner on the board at Cheltenham, in a Grade One as well.

“I know there’s no crowd here, but I’m really enjoying it that’s for sure.”

Emma Lavelle was proud of the effort of Paisley Park, who returned with a heart complaint when beaten last year.

She said: “I’m really pleased with him, although I can’t say I’m not disappointed as well because at the end of the day we didn’t win.

“He’s run flat out from start to finish and just couldn’t go any faster. The winner has gone some gallop and kept going. We had to use him to get there and just couldn’t get to where we needed him.

Paisley Park (left) was a brave third
Paisley Park (left) was a brave third (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Probably having missed the trial race here it wasn’t fitness that got him beat but probably a little sharpness, as he hadn’t run since before Christmas. He’s run a super race and all credit to Flooring Porter.”

Asked about Aintree and Punchestown, Lavelle continued: “We’ll see how he is after this, but he hasn’t had a busy season and I’d say we’ll definitely have a look at those races.”

He was ridden by Aidan Coleman, who said: “He’s shown a great attitude and fair play to the horse, but I was flat out the whole way – simple as. I couldn’t really get into it and when I did I’d probably used my energy to get there, but he tried everywhere and I’m very proud of him.

“That was some gallop, so fair play to the winner. It was a very good ride on the winner too, as he got a breather into him down the back and we’ve closed up a bit, but by the time we got into some sort of a position he was able to go on again.”

Porter likely to head straight to Cheltenham

Gavin Cromwell’s new Grade One star Flooring Porter is likely to head straight for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham – but a run beforehand has not yet been completely ruled out.

Cromwell will consider the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran and the Boyne Hurdle at Navan should he have a change of heart and decide another race is needed before the Cheltenham Festival.

Flooring Porter is owned by a syndicate of the same name, whose members had to fork out the supplementary fee to discover their pride and joy was well up to the highest level in the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle on Monday.

“It was great – it was a gamble supplementing him, but thankfully it paid off, and he was very good,” said Cromwell.

“He’s got a very big engine, and I was delighted. Jonny (Moore) was great on him – I was a bit concerned he’d gone off too hard, but he’d saved plenty.

“The Stayers’ Hurdle is his target now. There’s a very small chance he could go for the Galmoy Hurdle or maybe the Boyne Hurdle, but I’d say they are unlikely, and we might just go straight to Cheltenham.”

Stablemate Darver Star returned to something like his best form at Leopardstown when second to Franco De Port in Saturday’s Racing Post Novice Chase, having disappointed on his previous outing.

“It was a funny sort of race and if Jonny was to ride it again, he might do it a bit different,” said Cromwell

“But still, I was delighted with him, really.

“He had a little wind op after he disappointed before, but I think the ground was a bigger issue. Come the spring, we’d hope he’ll be more at home.”

Porter floors Christmas rivals at Leopardstown

Flooring Porter was given a fabulous front-running ride by Jonathan Moore to win the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle.

Supplemented for the Grade One having easily won a handicap last time out, Moore judged his fractions perfectly in front aboard Gavin Cromwell’s five-year-old.

Having gone a good pace on the first circuit with the field well spread out behind him, he looked a sitting duck as French Dynamite, Sire Du Berlais and The Storyteller all seemed to still be going well, while favourite Fury Road was under pressure.

Moore asked Flooring Porter to quicken on the run to the last though, and the 11-1 shot responded in style as he pulled clear of the staying-on The Storyteller by six lengths, with Sire De Berlais a further three-quarters of a length back in third.

Cromwell’s winner was introduced into the betting at 12-1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle by Betfair.

The winning handler was represented by Feidhlim Cunningham, who said: “There has been huge improvement in him.

“He’s good going left-handed. Obviously he won the 90,000 euros Grade B handicap in Navan and he was good that day.

Jonathan Moore steals a peak over his shoulder but he is well clear
Jonathan Moore steals a peak over his shoulder but he is well clear (Niall Carson/PA)

“Fair play to the owners. We suggested supplementing him for this and they backed us. They put the money where their mouth is and it’s fairly paid off.

“He’s really improved and Gavin has done a wonderful job with him.

“Johnny has given him a peach again – it was a similar ride to Navan as he got breathers at the right times.

“We’re absolutely delighted with that. You’d have to say Cheltenham would be on the agenda now and we’re just thrilled to get the Grade One winner.”