Expensive recruit Grangeclare West breezed to victory on his debut under rules in the Ladbrokes (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race at Punchestown.
The five-year-old was bought by Cheveley Park Stud for £430,000 in December after winning on his point-to-point bow at Lingstown the previous month, initially joining Gordon Elliott before switching to Willie Mullins’ care.
Partnered by Jody Townend in this extended two-mile affair, Grangeclare West was sent off the 2-11 favourite and assumed control from the off, with his rider taking a glance over both shoulders turning for home.
She let out another notch in the reins in the straight and Grangeclare West lengthened nicely, cruising home by nine lengths from Salvadore Ziggy to complete a treble for Mullins in the process.
Townend stepped in for the ride as Patrick Mullins is currently serving a two-day whip ban, and she was thrilled to team up with the Presenting gelding.
She said: “He’s a gorgeous horse and a complete gent.
“He was idling in front down the back and is still quite green. I’d say he would have been even more impressive if he had something to race with him.
“I have to make hay while the sun shines when Paddy is not around!”
The Mullins team had got off the mark with Sapphire Lady in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Chase.
Last seen when unplaced in a Grade Three event at Cork in December, the 6-5 favourite made short work of her rivals in winning by six lengths in the hands of Danny Mullins.
The winning rider said: “That was a nice performance off a lay-off on that slow ground. She jumps well and hopefully she can build more on that.
“She’d have no problem going into handicaps the way she jumped there.
“The ground is a bit dead because it’s drying, but I don’t think it’s as deep as we were expecting it to be. It’s lovely jumping ground – you’d run a winter horse on it.”
Mullins also teamed up with his trainer uncle to claim the Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Hurdle with Bleu Berry (9-4).
Stablemate Bapaume was sent off the 6-5 favourite, but it was the Mullins-ridden Bleu Berry who emerged victorious over Snow Falcon, recording his first win since the 2018 Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.
The 10-year-old returned from a 780-day absence when unplaced at the Punchestown Festival at the start of May, but the jockey felt that run had primed his mount for this test.
He added: “It was a nice performance. We were a bit wrong at the weight, but a Coral Cup winner in the past – he’s always a class horse.
“He benefitted from the run here at the festival. He didn’t run too bad that day for a first run back.
“He was a bit fresh early but got his head down when it mattered.”
Joseph O’Brien was also a multiple winner on the day, saddling the winner in both divisions of the Ladbrokes Home Of The Odds Boost Maiden Hurdle.
The Mark Walsh-ridden Persia (5-4 favourite) took the first division, with Banbridge (2-1 favourite) landing the second division under JJ Slevin.
Royal Ascot could be the next port of call for Arcadian Sunset (11-4 favourite) after he finished with a flourish for a six-length verdict in the Ladbrokes “Play 1-2-Free” On Football Handicap Hurdle.
Winning trainer John Queally said: “He has a bit of Flat speed and is rated 89 on the Flat. He’ll probably get a good hike for that and it might get him into a Galway Hurdle.
“We’ll mix it and will enter him in the two-and-a-half-mile Ascot Stakes. It is two weeks away, but he didn’t take too much out of himself today.
“He’s a fun horse and my wife (Miriam) owns him which is even better!”