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Singing Banjo completes memorable Punchestown double

Philip Rothwell’s Singing Banjo bagged his second win at this year’s Punchestown Festival when coming home clear in a dramatic renewal of the Mongey Communications La Touche Cup Cross Country Chase.

Despite winning the Ladies Perpetual Cup on Tuesday, he was sent off at 33-1 under Barry Walsh, who steered clear of the carnage behind him.

Alpha Des Obeaux was carried out when there appeared to be a difference of opinion over which course to take, an incident which also saw Some Neck badly hampered.

Singing Banjo stayed on stoutly to beat 80-1 chance Michael’s Pick by three and a quarter lengths.

“I’d say Willie (Mullins) will be OK!” said Rothwell, celebrating his third winner of the week.

“It’s unbelievable, but as I said before it’s a family success and it’s all about the Walsh family.

“Aaron, Barry’s brother, owns him and their father John trains him for all the point-to-points, so this is just an honour for me.

“They have banks at home to school their horses and I’ve run them in the banks races for them for a number of years and we absolutely love it. We’ve been second so many times to some of Enda’s (Bolger).

“I always thought that he’d be better over four miles than three and I was questioning whether he should have run in the Ladies Cup the other day, so this is just marvellous.”

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Willie Mullins helped JP McManus celebrate his 100th winner at the Punchestown Festival when Capodanno (11-2 favourite) ran out an easy winner of the Conway Piling Handicap Hurdle for Jody McGarvey.

“He was impressive, he’s a fine, big horse and looks a real chaser in the making. I think a bit of nicer ground just made a huge difference to him,” said Mullins.

“He’s one we’ll be looking forward to going over fences with. I think they way he jumped today if he can replicate that over fences there will be a queue of jockeys to ride him.”

Mullins took both Grade One heats on the card with Klassical Dream and Energumene, before Gauloise made it a four-timer for the handler as she proved too strong in the Close Brothers Mares Novice Hurdle.

“She was very good. I was disappointed with her in Cheltenham and I’ve been expecting a performance like that out of her all year,” said Mullins.

“I think I probably wasn’t hard enough on her. I was quite hard on her coming here and it seems to have paid off.

“She’s a tough mare and is probably tougher than a lot of mares. I think she’s going to improve away next season.

“I thought early on in her career she could be top class and now I think she’s back on track again.

“I’m delighted for (owner) Kenny Alexander and she’s another nice mare to add to his portfolio.”

Dysart Dynamo capped the day in fine fashion for the Mullins team as he cantered home under the trainer’s son Patrick in the closing Grant Thornton (C & G) INH Flat Race.

The trainer was winning his 13th race of the week with the evens favourite.

Anthony Honeyball had gone close to a Punchestown Festival winner a couple of times in the past with his stable stalwart Regal Encore, but went one better with Sully D’Oc (6-1) in the Pigsback.com Handicap Chase.

Ridden by rising star of the weighing room Simon Torrens, the seven-year-old was proving his durability having run with credit at both Cheltenham and Aintree.

“He’s always been a lovely horse, but this season has made a man of him as he’s also done Cheltenham and Aintree,” said Honeyball.

“Richie McLernon needs a mention as he’s done a lovely job with him. He ran well at Aintree and I thought coming here might freshen him up as he was on his way to Martinstown anyway.

“I mentioned the cheekpieces to Frank (Berry, racing manager for owner JP McManus) so we put them on – whether they made a difference, I don’t know.

“We’ve hit the bar here a few times with Regal Encore and Cresswell Breeze, so I’m delighted. Watching the way that race was run, I think we could be back in Ireland with him at some stage.”

Jiving Jerry landed a gamble in the opening Specialist Joinery Group Handicap Hurdle for Cathal Landers and trainer James Barcoe.

Having been available at 20-1 overnight, he won by half a length at 11-2.

“That’s brilliant and the horse deserved it as he’s been very consistent all year. He’s an easy horse to train, he turns up,” said Barcoe.

“That’s his third win and it’s for my most important owner, my wife, and it was my niece who led him up, so it’s great.”

Echoes In Rain pours it on to kickstart Mullins’ five-timer

Exciting mare Echoes In Rain kickstarted a remarkable five-timer for Willie Mullins on day one of the Punchestown Festival as she beat the boys impressively in the eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle.

Mullins went on to score with Chacun Pour Soi in the feature William Hill Champion Chase and Colreevy in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase – to make it a clean sweep of the card’s three Grade Ones – as well as Jazzaway and Adamantly Chosen.

The Closutton trainer had saddled seven previous winners of the Champion Novice Hurdle – including Hurricane Fly (2009), Faugheen (2014) and Douvan (2015).

This year he fired a twin assault, with dual Grade Two winner Echoes In Rain the 8-13 favourite under his son Patrick Mullins, and Blue Lord next best in the market at 15-8 in the hands of Paul Townend.

Blue Lord set out to make all the running, with Echoes In Rain always in his slipstream.

The favourite took the lead with relative ease on the run to the final flight, however, before kicking just over three lengths clear on the run-in.

Colonel Mustard (40-1) finished with a flourish to beat Blue Lord to the runner-up spot.

Mullins said: “It’s a great start to the week for Patrick and for Echoes In Rain’s connections.

“She is a filly that’s improving as she learns about racing. She just made one mistake, and Patrick blamed himself because he didn’t want her to jump it as well as she was setting herself up to jump it because she was going to land there too soon, so he let her fiddle it.

Patrick (left) and Willie Mullins with Echoes In Rain
Patrick (left) and Willie Mullins with Echoes In Rain (Niall Carson/PA)

“She’s a filly who has now won at the top level, and hopefully that’s where she’ll stay for the next couple of years.

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“She could run on the Flat, but it’s taken us two years to settle her down, so I doubt I’m going to do that.

“I’d say we’ll probably stick to this jumping game. She’s learning how to pace herself jumping now, and you’d have to be happy with that.”

Asked whether he felt Echoes In Rain could develop into a Champion Hurdle contender, he added: “She’s improving every day and with every run and looks like she’s setting herself up to get a chance at it.”

Jazzaway (centre) in action at Punchestown
Jazzaway (centre) in action at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

The champion trainer soon doubled up, with the Conor McNamara-ridden Jazzaway coming out on top in a thrilling finish to the 50,000 euro Killashee Hotel Handicap Hurdle.

The 10-1 shot looked likely to be caught by the fast-finishing Call Me Lyreen, but clung on by a short head.

Mullins said: “I’ve lost a bottle of champagne to Richie Galway (racecourse manager) because he said we’d held on and I said we hadn’t. He said ‘I bet you a bottle of Bollinger’ and I said ‘fair enough’!

“It’s great for Conor, claiming his 3lb, to get a victory like that – and great for the owners.

“Jazzaway will be kept on the go. We’ll look for more opportunities for her, if we can.”

Willie Mullins enjoyed another excellent day at Punchestown
Willie Mullins enjoyed an excellent day at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

After the brilliant Chacun Pour Soi made it three winners for the Mullins team, Adamantly Chosen provided a fourth with a debut victory in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper.

Ridden by Jody Townend – sister of champion jockey Paul – the 5-1 shot got the better of Springwell Bay by three-quarters of a length.

Mullins said: “Jody was very good on the horse. He was one of the bargain purchases of the sales (cost 24,000 euros), which just shows you don’t have to have huge money to get the winner.

“The whole family like winning around here – we sourced Adamant Approach after seeing him in a schooling bumper here. I think a half-brother to this horse might have won around here, too.”

Mullins made it five in succession with Colreevy – but he was not the only trainer who had a day to remember, because Philip Rothwell also saddled two winners.

Cousin Harry (near side) winning at Punchestown
Cousin Harry (near side) winning at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

Cousin Harry was a 25-1 scorer in the opening Have The Conversation Say Yes To Organ Donation Novice Handicap Hurdle, before 14-1 shot Singing Banjo landed the Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase For The Ladies Perpetual Cup over the cross-country course.

After his first winner, Rothwell said: “I’m absolutely thrilled. We have three runners today, but I don’t have a huge number for the week.

“We’ve been really happy with Cousin Harry. He won very well in Navan and then we tried him over two-and-a-half in Fairyhouse. It was arguable whether he didn’t get the trip there or ran too keen.

“This fella has been great this year.”

Following Singing Banjo’s success, he added: “That’s absolutely magic. It’s great for the Walsh family (owners), and this has very little to do with me.

“He comes over a few weeks before he runs, and we ran him in a couple of hunter chases to have him ready for today.”

Mullins, with his son Patrick riding, was narrowly foiled in the last – by his nephew, as Emmet Mullins’ Crowns Major prevented runner-up Hara Kiri bringing up the six-timer.

The Japanese-bred four-year-old was sent off 11-2 to make a winning debut, and duly did so in the Irish Field – We Are All About The Horse INH Flat Race.

Hara Kiri challenged out wide from well off the pace, but was kept at bay by two and a half lengths, and the winning trainer said: “It’s been a long road and it’s finally paid off for me.

“We bought him in Japan as a foal four years ago. It was one of my crazier ideas.

“We were just a little worried about the ground with the rain, being Japanese bred.

“(Jockey) Philip (Byrnes) was very good – I told him to take his time and drop him in and pick the best of the ground. I know Patrick came wide for ground – but in these four-year-old races Philip got the rail, and that’s a huge advantage.”

Echoes In Rain pours it on at Punchestown

Exciting mare Echoes In Rain beat the boys with an impressive display in the eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

Trainer Willie Mullins had saddled seven previous winners of the Grade One contest, with Hurricane Fly (2009), Faugheen (2014) and Douvan (2015) among those on the roll of honour.

This year the Closutton handler fired a twin assault, with dual Grade Two winner Echoes In Rain the 8-13 favourite under the trainer’s son Patrick Mullins, and Blue Lord next best in the market at 15-8 in the hands of Paul Townend.

Bidding to bounce back from a final-flight fall when seemingly booked for second behind stablemate Appreciate It in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, Blue Lord set out to make all the running, with Echoes In Rain always in his slipstream.

The favourite took over the lead with relative ease on the run to the final flight, however, before kicking just over three lengths clear on the run-in.

Colonel Mustard (40-1) finished with a flourish to beat Blue Lord to the runner-up spot late on and deny Mullins a one-two.

Mullins said: “It’s a great start to the week for Patrick and for Echoes In Rain’s connections.

“She is a filly that’s improving as she learns about racing. She just made one mistake, and Patrick blamed himself because he didn’t want her to jump it as well as she was setting herself up to jump it because she was going to land there too soon, so he let her fiddle it.

Patrick (left) and Willie Mullins with Echoes In Rain
Patrick (left) and Willie Mullins with Echoes In Rain (Niall Carson/PA)
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“She’s a filly who has now won at the top level, and hopefully that’s where she’ll stay for the next couple of years.

“She could run on the Flat, but it’s taken us two years to settle her down, so I doubt I’m going to do that.

“I’d say we’ll probably stick to this jumping game. She’s learning how to pace herself jumping now, and you’d have to be happy with that.”

Asked whether he felt Echoes In Rain could develop into a Champion Hurdle contender, he added: “She’s improving every day and with every run and looks like she’s setting herself up to get a chance at it.”

Jazzaway (centre) in action at Punchestown
Jazzaway (centre) in action at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

The champion trainer soon doubled up, with the Conor McNamara-ridden Jazzaway coming out on top in a thrilling finish to the 50,000 euro Killashee Hotel Handicap Hurdle.

The 10-1 shot looked likely to be caught by the fast-finishing Call Me Lyreen as the post loomed, but clung on by a short head.

Mullins said: “I’ve lost a bottle of champagne to Richie Galway (racecourse manager) because he said we’d held on and I said we hadn’t. He said ‘I bet you a bottle of Bollinger’ and I said ‘fair enough’!

“It’s great for Conor, claiming his 3lb, to get a victory like that – and great for the owners.

“Jazzaway will be kept on the go. We’ll look for more opportunities for her, if we can.”

Willie Mullins enjoyed another excellent day at Punchestown
Willie Mullins enjoyed another excellent day at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

After the brilliant Chacun Pour Soi made it three winners on the card for the Mullins team in the William Hill Champion Chase, Adamantly Chosen brought up the yard’s four-timer with a debut victory in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper.

Ridden by Jody Townend – sister of champion jockey Paul – the 5-1 shot got the better of Springwell Bay by three-quarters of a length.

Mullins said: “Jody was very good on the horse. He was one of the bargain purchases of the sales (cost 24,000 euros), which just shows you don’t have to have huge money to get the winner.

“The whole family like winning around here – we sourced Adamant Approach after seeing him in a schooling bumper here. I think a half-brother to this horse might have won around here, too.”

Mullins made it five on the day with Colreevy in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase.

Cousin Harry (near side) winning at Punchestown
Cousin Harry (near side) winning at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

Trainer Philip Rothwell enjoyed a memorable afternoon by saddling two winners.

Cousin Harry was a 25-1 scorer in the opening Have The Conversation Say Yes To Organ Donation Novice Handicap Hurdle, before 14-1 shot Singing Banjo landed the Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase For The Ladies Perpetual Cup over the cross-country course.

After his first winner, Rothwell said: “I’m absolutely thrilled. We have three runners today, but I don’t have a huge number for the week.

“We’ve been really happy with Cousin Harry. He won very well in Navan and then we tried him over two-and-a-half in Fairyhouse. It was arguable whether he didn’t get the trip there or ran too keen.

“This fella has been great this year.”

Following Singing Banjo’s success, he added: “That’s absolutely magic. It’s great for the Walsh family (owners), and this has very little to do with me.

“He comes over a few weeks before he runs, and we ran him in a couple of hunter chases to have him ready for today.”