Tag Archive for: Punchestown

Hispanic Moon rises to the top, as Gala Marceau disappoints

Dual Grade One winner Gala Marceau finished a disappointing third as Hispanic Moon claimed top honours in the Bet Victor Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown.

Gala Marceau locked horns with fellow Willie Mullins-trained mare Lossiemouth on several occasions last season, coming out on top at the Dublin Racing Festival before her esteemed stablemate turned the tables in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and confirmed the form at Punchestown.

Gala Marceau did though round off her campaign with a top-level win in France, and while she was beaten by another Mullins mare in Ashroe Diamond on her return to action at Doncaster late last month, she was widely expected to get back on the winning trail at Grade Three level on home soil.

Ridden by Paul Townend, the 2-7 shot travelled well for much of the of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, but was being ridden along before the home turn and soon emptied in the ultra-testing conditions.

Saylavee, also trained by Mullins, did her best to make a race of it with Henry de Bromhead’s 11-2 chance Hispanic Moon, but the latter kicked eight lengths clear in the hands of Darragh O’Keeffe.

Coral reacted by trimming Hispanic Moon’s odds for the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival to 16-1 from 50-1, while easing Gala Marceau to 12-1 from 7-1. Lossiemouth is the 1-2 favourite.

Robbie Power, the winning trainer’s race planner, said: “That was great. She was impressive here back in November and I don’t know what went wrong at Christmas, there was no real excuse for her, she just didn’t run her race for some reason.

“That was much more like it today and Darragh knew himself after jumping two hurdles that she was back to herself. She was a different mare, she travelled and jumped really well. She winged the last and went from there to the winning post with her two ears pricked.

“Hopefully there is a bit more in the locker. She’s in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and we’ll see how she comes out of this, we might take a punt.

“You’d have to be tempted after that, she’s beaten Saylavee a lot easier than she did here back in November.”

Of the market leader, Mullins said: “Paul thought she ran a bit keen and she was very disappointing, especially after her promising run in Doncaster.

“I haven’t seen anything wrong with her yet, but she was blowing quite hard when she came in. Unfortunately it’s one of those things.”

No Cheltenham Festival for Flies this year

There will be no Cheltenham Festival for No Flies On Him despite Edward O’Grady taking plenty of positives from his second place behind Tullyhill at Punchestown on Sunday.

The JP McManus-owned five-year-old downed Grade One winner Jango Baie in his sole start in the pointing field and lit up Leopardstown at Christmas with a taking display on his rules debut.

That victory raised the possibility of a return to former glories for Killeens handler O’Grady, who is no stranger to success on the biggest stage of all.

No Flies On Him holds entries in both the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Baring Bingham, but a trip to Prestbury Park will have to wait, with the promising youngster set to sit out proceedings in the Cotswolds this time around.

“He won’t go to Cheltenham,” said O’Grady. “He’s well and he came home and ate up and pulled out well this morning.

“Had he won then obviously I would have gone to Cheltenham and had no worries. But it might have been just a pretty big step (at Punchestown) and he might improve quite a bit from it.

“He’s a very gross horse and he blew quite a lot after his race and I think there is a nice bit of improvement in him.

“We’ll probably go to Fairyhouse and Punchestown – home soil and good ground. I’m sure he will have benefitted from the experience at Punchestown.”

No Flies On Him in action at Leopardstown at Christmas
No Flies On Him in action at Leopardstown at Christmas (Niall Carson/PA)

No Flies On Him ultimately finished nine lengths adrift of the impressive Willie Mullins-trained winner when upped to Listed level for just his second appearance under rules.

However, O’Grady believes there was plenty of encouragement to take from his charge’s performance – especially the way he ran on to claw back second after making a mistake at the last.

He continued: “There were a number of positives and obviously you are always disappointed when you get beat, but maybe at this stage we were over estimating things and the winner put up a Grade One performance.

“My horse is only five and this was only his second start. He had never been off the bridle before in his life, so it was quite a shock to his system and something he handled quite well on reflection.

“He really wasn’t at home on the gluey ground and he did find that rather difficult – the day he ran at Leopardstown it was good ground.

“What we really liked about him was having made the mistake at the last hurdle, he ran on again.

“So there were a lot of positives to take from the run and he certainly hasn’t gone down in our estimations, but just maybe at this stage of his career it was maybe too big an ask under the circumstances.”

A step up in trip is now under consideration for connections who are confident they still have a horse with high-class potential in their care having conceded both age and experience to Tullyhill.

“We would have no worries about stepping him up in trip and whether he does that next time or the time after I don’t know, but we would have no worries doing so,” added O’Grady.

“It’s certainly under consideration and something I will discuss with JP, Frank (Berry, racing manager) and the jockey.

“The other horse (Tullyhill) was one of the top bumper horses last year and has the experience as well. He has a year on No Flies On Him and my horse is very, very green and Derek O’Connor is such a good jockey that when he ran in his point-to-point, he didn’t even know he had a race.

“When he ran at Leopardstown he barely came off the bridle, so there is tremendous room for improvement in racing technique and there’s not a lot we can do about that at home – it’s just something that will come from experience.”

Tullyhill stakes Supreme claim with easy Listed verdict

Tullyhill could be bound for Cheltenham after making light work of the Madigan Group Irish EBF Sheila Bourke Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

The six-year-old finished second in the Champion Bumper at the Festival last season, a result that followed a prior bumper success and a point to point win.

He was beaten by a significant margin on his hurdling debut in November but his jumping was much improved on his next start when he took a Naas maiden by seven lengths in January.

He started as the 6-5 favourite under Paul Townend at Listed level at Punchestown and made all the of the running, cruising to a nine-length victory having barely seen another rival.

Following the run, Tullyhill is as low as 5-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Paddy Power, but Mullins will consult with owners Cheveley Park Stud before deciding on a Cheltenham bid.

He said: “He has a fair engine and we just needed to give him confidence jumping. David Casey was deputised with that job and has done a right job.

“He’s entitled to go anywhere after a performance like that.

“I thought he’d be an out-an-out stayer but he has plenty of speed, a great cruising speed, and now his jumping is starting to match his cruising speed.

“He’s in the Supreme and I’ll have a word with connections and see what they would like to do.”

Where It All Began bags National Trial honours

Where It All Began got off the mark over fences in the QuinnBet Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Punchestown.

Gordon Elliott’s eight-year-old had performed with credit in seven previous starts over fences but was yet to taste success in the discipline and was last seen winning in a maiden hurdle in January 2022.

Under Jack Kennedy, he stepped up to a staying trip of three miles and three furlongs for the first time at Punchestown and started as a 10-1 chance in a field of 15.

The gelding always looked comfortable but it was on the turn for home that the race became a test of stamina and it looked as though favourite We’llhavewan had the upper hand.

However, Where It All Began started to pick off his rivals, clearly relishing the extra distance as galloped home to take the Listed contest by an easy 16 lengths.

“He jumped great and never missed a beat the whole way,” Kennedy said.

“It probably looked turning in that I was going to finish third but stamina really kicked in when we straightened up. I’m delighted with him.

“He’s not reliant on heavy ground, just a test of stamina is what he wants.

“He’d been running well and threatened to do something like that.”

As a result of the performance Paddy Power and Betfair slashed his price for the Grand National from 200-1 to 50-1, with weights for the Aintree contest revealed on Tuesday.

Elliott nominated two alternative targets for the horse, however, one at the Cheltenham Festival in March and one closer to home at Fairyhouse, with only 34 runners permitted in the National this year.

He said: “He could go for the Kim Muir at Cheltenham or an Irish National. It was a good performance and he stays really well.”

Mister Policeman returns to winning ways at Punchestown

Mister Policeman looked to get his career back on track with victory in the Concept Colours Rated Novice Chase at Punchestown.

The Willie Mullins-trained chestnut was purchased by Rich Ricci after hurdles success in France as a four-year-old and got off the mark for new connections at the first time of asking.

His first Irish run was in a two-mile Cork hurdle last April, a race he won comfortably before graduating to fences at the start of this term.

His first attempt at Fairyhouse in November was a success and the gelding then headed to Naas in January and started as the favourite in a two-mile novice.

He was comprehensively beaten on that occasion as Quilixios came home in front with Sa Fureur behind him and Mister Policeman over eight lengths away from the winner in third.

At Punchestown the five-year-old looked to make amends for a sticky round of jumping last time and under Paul Townend he was much improved, travelling well as the 1-2 favourite in a field of five.

Rounding the final bend he was galloping along comfortably and was able to produce a neat jump at the last to pull away to a six-length victory.

Mullins said of the success: “He’s still learning to jump and he’ll probably be better going out in trip at some stage, but this race fitted nicely into his schedule. It will leave him nicely set up for the spring.

“I’d imagine he’ll stay at home and there are plenty of good races to be won. He could go for a novice handicap.”

Mullins enjoyed four winners on the day, with Townend riding three, as Tullyhill took the Madigan Group Irish EBF Sheila Bourke Novice Hurdle and Paggane (13-8) landed the Old House Kill Maiden Hurdle.

The fourth Closutton winner was partnered by Patrick Mullins as 10-11 favourite Sounds Victorius swooped in the dying strides of the Lockton Insurance Brokers Supporting Athy Rugby (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.

Masterboy Davis looked booked for glory until Mullins produced his mount on the line, with stablemate Inn At The Park back in third.

The winning trainer said: “You could see he was learning all the way up the straight in Leopardstown (when second on debut). Obviously he didn’t take all those lessons to heart and had to relearn today. He did it the hard way but is obviously full of stamina.

“I was very happy with Inn At The Park as well and he’ll win before too long.”

Rachael Blackmore coaxed home Senior Chief to take the QuinnBet Beginners Chase over two miles and seven furlongs.

The 2-9 favourite had placed in two runs over fences so far and seemed to require a little persuasion throughout the race but scraped home to prevail by three-quarters of a length.

“Rachael said once she turned in she knew it was OK but I’m not so sure,” winning trainer Henry De Bromhead said.

“He’s done little wrong in fairness to him, and the handicapper might reassess him from a mark of 142.

“He looked laboured and Rachael said it’s tough old ground. We’ll look for a handicap now and see where we go from there.

“I’m delighted for the lads (Lucky In Life Syndicate) who are great supporters and a lot of them work at Regeneron in Limerick.”

Kennedy hits century for the first time at Punchestown

Jack Kennedy was thrilled to secure his first ever seasonal century of winners after Coko Beach made a foot-perfect debut in the cross-country sphere at Punchestown.

The multiple Grade One-winning rider has suffered more than his fair share of injury setbacks in recent years, but leads Paul Townend in the race to be crowned this season’s champion jockey in Ireland.

The 24-year-old was out of luck at the Dublin Racing Festival over the weekend, but made an immediate impact for his boss Gordon Elliott in the opening race on Monday.

Coko Beach, whose CV includes big-race wins in the Thyestes Chase and the Troytown, was the 11-8 favourite for the SBK P.P. Hogan Memorial Cross Country Chase and took to the new discipline like a duck to water, passing the post with six lengths in hand over Enda Bolger’s Genois.

Betfair halved the Gigginstown-owned winner to 5-1 for the championship event at Cheltenham in March.

Kennedy said: “It’s great to get it and it was lovely to do it on something like that – it’s probably as much fun as I’ve ever had on a racehorse, to be honest.

“He loved it and is a natural. I was excited when I saw him entered. Gordon has brought him to a local cross-country track for about a year to sweeten him up a bit. He’s won some good pots in that time.

“He loved it and was looking for the next one (obstacle) all the time. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, me or him!

“He’s obviously a high-class horse and it opens up more doors for him.

“I was stuck on 99 for a while and delighted to get it done.”

Mercurey in the Punchestown winner's enclosure
Mercurey in the Punchestown winner’s enclosure (Alan Magee/PA)

Willie Mullins secured his 200th winner of the campaign later in the afternoon as the Rich and Susannah Ricci-owned Mercurey outclassed his rivals in the SBK Maiden Hurdle.

A debut winner in a Gowran Park bumper three years ago, the six-year-old had only run three time since and finished third on his return from over a year on the sidelines at this track three weeks ago.

With that comeback run under his belt, Mercurey was the 30-100 favourite to go a couple of places better under the trainer’s nephew Danny Mullins and was impressive in pulling 22 lengths clear of his rivals.

The rider, who enjoyed a treble at the Dublin Racing Festival on Saturday, said: “His jumping was very good. He got tight to one down the back, but I wanted to see what he was like on an in-between stride as well. He figured that out well and when you need him, he’s very good.

“He’s filled into himself for a tall horse. It took him a year after that good four-year-old season but he’s getting there now.”

Exciting prospect No Flies On Him waiting for Punchestown

No Flies On Him will head to Punchestown to continue his hurdling education next month after connections elected to miss the Dublin Racing Festival with the top novice prospect.

Trained by Edward O’Grady and owned by JP McManus, the five-year-old beat Nicky Henderson’s Grade One scorer Jango Baie in the pointing field before impressing on his rules debut at Leopardstown over the Christmas period.

He looked to be in line for a return to the Irish capital for the Grade One Tattersalls Ireland 50th Derby Sale Novice Hurdle on Sunday, but his name was missing from the list of acceptors at Tuesday’s confirmation stage.

Instead O’Grady will point his talented charge towards Kildare next month, where he will step up to Listed level in the Madigan Group Irish EBF Sheila Bourke Novice Hurdle.

“The horse is absolutely fine and in excellent shape, but we have decided to wait for Punchestown on February 18,” said O’Grady.

“We were pleased with what he did (on debut). I don’t know (if he’s improved) but we will find out.”

No Flies On Him jumps the last at Leopardstown on debut
No Flies On Him jumps the last at Leopardstown on debut (Niall Carson/PA)

No Flies On Him holds an entries for both the Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle – for which he is as short as 12-1 – and the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

When asked if a positive display at Punchestown could tee up a trip to Prestbury Park in March, O’Grady said: “I hope so, yes.”

Mullins and Townend continue to carry all before them

Willie Mullins and Paul Townend continued their sensational run of form with a Monday double at Punchestown.

Even by his own high standards, the Closutton handler has been firing on all cylinders since the turn of the year, with his latest brace meaning he has now trained 39 winners in January.

Stable jockey Townend is enjoy a similar hot streak, with his last 20 rides yielding 14 victories.

It did not take the formidable partnership long to find the target, with Anotherway bolting up in the opening Get Best Odds Guaranteed At Bet Victor Maiden Hurdle.

The five-year-old was the 8-15 favourite despite finishing down the field on his Irish debut at Leopardstown over Christmas and justified his cramped odds with a comfortable 12-length success.

Coral cut Anotherway to 33-1 from 100-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, but Mullins indicated he could well step up in distance if he does make the trip to the Cotswolds.

“He stayed well and galloped well the whole way to the line, but his jumping left a lot to be desired and he has to improve on that,” said the champion trainer.

“Maybe it was the heavy ground today because he jumped much better in Leopardstown the last day. I’m disappointed with his jumping but at least he did what he was showing us at home today.

“Looking at that performance he might be more of a Ballymore (Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle) horse.”

Mullins and Townend doubled up in the Group Ticket Deal At Festival 2024 (C & G) Maiden Hurdle with the similarly promising Billericay Dickie (8-11 favourite).

Another recruit from the French Flat scene, the five-year-old cruised to the front under a motionless Townend before kicking 11 lengths clear.

Mullins added: “I was delighted with that. I didn’t think he’d go on that ground, but Paul said he handled it well.

“For a maiden I thought he jumped very well and he could go wherever he wants.

“We’ll look at a novice hurdle somewhere and we’ll see if Paul thinks he’s good enough for a race across the water (at Cheltenham). I’d like to get another run into him before we go there, if we go there.

“That was two and a half, he’s by New Bay and his dam won on the Flat over a mile and a quarter. I wouldn’t be going three miles with him, but he could stick around that trip or two-six.

“I might get another novice in him and then decide if he’s good enough to go.”

Bioluminescence was another winning odds-on favourite in the Download The Bet Victor App Mares Maiden Hurdle, landing odds of 4-7 for trainer Gavin Cromwell, jockey Mark Walsh and owner JP McManus.

Cromwell said: “She’s a three-mile chaser in the making, she ploughed through that ground and it’s nice to get her head in front.”

Martin Brassil’s Built By Ballymore (11-4) was hard at work a long way from home in the Punchestown Members Club From 215 Rated Novice Hurdle, but stuck to his guns to stay in contention and in the end pulled 12 lengths ahead of the chasing pack under JJ Slevin.

“He just handles the muck. He mightn’t quicken up but he just keeps going in it,” said Brassil.

“I felt he might have been put in high enough, but in those conditions he handles it better than most.”

Maughreen shows plenty of family ability in dazzling debut

Maughreen – a mare out of a half-sister to the brilliant 2015 Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen – made a most impressive racecourse debut at Punchestown.

Trained like Faugheen by Willie Mullins, the five-year-old was sent off the 1-2 favourite in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Flat Race and the result was never in any doubt.

Kept wide throughout by Patrick Mullins, it was not until the field straightened up for home that Maughreen gave an inkling of what she could do.

The moment she was asked she immediately picked up and without any real effort from the saddle, she had shot 11 lengths clear of Harrys Annie.

Maughreen was swiftly cut in the Champion Bumper market by Paddy Power to 10-1 from 20s.

Maughreen with members of the Closutton Racing Club
Maughreen with members of the Closutton Racing Club (PA)

Patrick Mullins said: “She was very impressive. She was very professional, settled great and quickened up lovely. She handled the ground well.

“Her work was good, but that is probably even better than what she was doing at home. With that pedigree the owners are entitled to get more than a bit excited.

“We’ll go for black-type bumpers and everything is on the table. The DRF (Dublin Racing Festival) might come a bit soon and there is Fairyhouse, Punchestown and Aintree. I think she is entitled to take her chance.”

Maughreen completed a double on the day for the champion trainer, who also took the opening Bet Victor Proud To Support Irish Racing Maiden Hurdle with Highwind.

The juvenile effectively had to win the race twice, as with the race seemingly in the bag he made a hash of the final flight.

It was to his credit that when Sean O’Keeffe asked him again he still had plenty left and the 6-4 favourite beat Pigeon House by two and three-quarter lengths.

Sean O'Keeffe with Highwind
Sean O’Keeffe with Highwind (PA)

The winner was cut to 16-1 from 25s for the Triumph Hurdle by Betfair.

“It wasn’t without a scare, but he has a nice engine and a bit of class. He did it nicely at the finish,” said O’Keeffe.

“He knuckled at the back of the second-last and the same at the last. He went and won his race before doing that at the last but once they came to him, he picked up well again.

“He’s a laid-back horse and stays well. He’s a horse with a nice future and there will be plenty of improvement in him.”

Hereford and Punchestown pass morning inspections

Monday’s meetings at both Hereford and Punchestown will go ahead as planned after the tracks passed morning inspections.

Officials at Hereford declared the venue fit for action following an 8am precautionary check, with the ground reported to be good, good to soft in places for a seven-race card.

Punchestown’s 7.30am inspection also had a favourable outcome, with a seven-race fixture on soft going.

Brendan Sheridan, IHRB clerk of the course at Punchestown said: “The track is fit for racing and the fixture today will go ahead.

“There is currently a grass frost here at present but Met Éireann have said this morning that temperatures will rise to three degrees during the day with some sunny spells.

“The ground remains soft and we will once again be using the inside hurdle straight for the first circuit and finishing on the main straight for all races.”

Tuesday’s fixture at Chepstow will have to pass a precautionary inspection at 8am on raceday if it is to go ahead.

Vulnerable areas, take offs and landings have been covered by frost sheets but temperatures are forecast to drop overnight.

Fortune favours Lisnagar at last with Punchestown win

Lisnagar Fortune deservedly opened his account over obstacles in the SkyBet Acca Freeze Maiden Hurdle at Punchestown.

An impressive bumper winner at the 2022 Punchestown Festival, the half-brother to Stayers’ Hurdle hero Lisnagar Oscar did not run again until finishing second on his hurdling debut at Tramore on New Year’s Day of last year.

The six-year-old was beaten as an odds-on favourite for a second time at Cork on his next start before being touched off by stablemate Readin Tommy Wrong at the same venue on his comeback in November, form which was well advertised by the winner’s surprise Grade One success at Naas on Friday.

On the strength of that run Lisnagar Fortune was odds-on at 10-11 to come good over hurdles at the fourth attempt and got the job done in good style, pulling six and a half lengths clear of Jasko Des Dames to complete a double on the card for Willie Mullins following the earlier success of Mystical Power.

Of Lisnagar Fortune, winning jockey Paul Townend said: “The penny is dropping a little bit with him. On form he was entitled to win after the run in Mallow (Cork).

“He’s just taken a while to come to hand and learn his jumping and things. I thought it was the best he has jumped today and he’ll progress away.

“He’ll end up going further but he was too keen, he’s starting to race now and to learn. He’ll end up going back out in trip in time, but I’m not sure if it’s the right time yet.”

Kates Hill broke her duck under rules in the Total Event Rental Beginners Chase.

The three-time point-to-point winner had been unsuccessful in seven previous outings over regulation obstacles, but was placed in bumpers and over hurdles and filled the runner-up spot on her chasing debut at Naas last month.

Philip Dempsey’s charge was a 15-8 shot to go one better under Donagh Meyler and dug deep from the final fence to see off the rallying Rolly Bowley Boy by half a length.

“That was great, she backed up her Naas run. She’s a great jumper, she’s a lovely mare and she won well there,” said Dempsey.

“There is novice handicap at Naas at the end of the month and the Ulster National could be a plan, distance would be her thing.”

Idol (100-30) landed the SkyBet Request A Bet Mares Handicap Hurdle for trainer Sam Curling and jockey Philip Enright, while Shark Hanlon and Shane Fenelon combined to take top honours in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Chase with Easy Bucks (18-1).

The SkyBet Build A Bet Amateur National brought proceedings to a close, with victory going to the Ted Walsh-trained Hardwired (11-4 joint-favourite) and 7lb claimer Alex Harvey.

Mystical Power rockets to Supreme favouritism with Moscow Flyer success

Mystical Power moved to Supreme Novices’ Hurdle favouritism with a dominant display in the SkyBet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old is impeccably bred as a son of Galileo out of the brilliant Champion Hurdle-winning mare Annie Power and could hardly have made a better start to his career for the powerhouse ownership trio of JP McManus, John Magnier and Rich Ricci.

Following a winning debut debut in a Ballinrobe bumper in May, Mystical Power made a successful switch to hurdling at Galway two months later – and having sidestepped the rearranged Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle on Friday, he was sent off at 5-4 for his comeback in a Grade Two contest his trainer has previously won with the likes of Vautour (2014), Douvan (2015), Min (2015) and Impaire Et Passe (2023).

Mark Walsh – looking to complete a big-race double in the McManus colours following Grade Three success aboard Spillane’s Tower in the previous contest on the card – settled his mount at the rear of the four-runner field for much of the two-mile journey while his stablemate Lombron adopted a pacesetting role.

There was the odd moment of worry for Mystical Power’s supporters, with his rider having to get lower in the saddle on the home turn, but the further he went the better he looked and he fairly rocketed clear in the straight to score by seven lengths from Jigoro.

Mullins’ assistant David Casey said: “I was very impressed with him, he wouldn’t show that at home. He seems to save his best for the track, which is a great trait to have.

“We were a little bit worried about the ground today as he’s coming from a summer campaign. We were a little worried if he would handle that heavy ground, but it looks like he went through it very well.

“We gave him a break after he had his couple of runs in the summer and brought him back to see if he would handle a winter campaign.

“Mark rode him a couple of weeks ago and thought he had improved hugely from when he had rode him earlier in the year. He showed that today.”

Mystical Power winning at Galway
Mystical Power winning at Galway (Niall Carson/PA)

Sky Bet make the winner their 9-2 favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, just ahead of fellow McManus-owned ace Jeriko Du Reponet – trained by Nicky Henderson – at 5-1.

“At the moment you probably wouldn’t go any further than two miles until you have to. Mark said he rides a lot quicker on the track than he does at home,” Casey added.

“I thought he showed a fair turn of foot there. I know the camp have the second-favourite for the Supreme as well so they might want to split them up, but at the moment until you have to you wouldn’t go further, I think.”

Frank Berry, McManus’ racing manager, said: “That was grand. Mark said they didn’t go mad early on, but he quickened up well.

“Hopefully he’ll have learned a little bit jumping wise today and you could only be very pleased with him.

“We didn’t know coming here how he was going to cope with the ground, but he coped with it quite well.

“He’s keen anyway and the small field suited to get him settled.”

When asked if he could run again before Cheltenham, Berry added: “The experience part of it would do him good but we’ll leave that up to Willie.”

Tower-ing performance floors Blood Destiny

Spillane’s Tower inflicted a shock defeat on red-hot favourite Blood Destiny in the Betting Better With SkyBet Novice Chase at Punchestown.

The Grade Three contest has an illustrious roll of honour in recent years, with Carefully Selected, Envoi Allen, Bob Olinger and Impervious the last four winners, and the Willie Mullins-trained Blood Destiny was a 2-5 shot to add his name to the list following an impressive fencing debut at Naas.

Just as he did a month ago, Blood Destiny set out to make every yard of the running in the hands of Paul Townend, and for much of the two-and-a-half-mile contest he appeared in complete control.

However, it became clear on the run to the final fence he had a real race on his hands as Mark Walsh conjured a late charge from Spillane’s Tower (7-1), who was bidding for back-to-back course wins for trainer Jimmy Mangan and owner JP McManus.

Blood Destiny was still in the lead jumping the final fence, but he was unable to resist Spillane’s Tower’s finishing kick, with two lengths separating the pair at the line.

The winning owner’s racing manager, Frank Berry, said: “He jumped well, they went a good gallop and he stayed well. You could only be pleased with him.

“I’d say the step up in trip was a big help to him. Mark said he was a bit flat out early on but he got home well.

“We’ve no plans, we’ll see where he goes and where he slots in. It’s nice to see Jimmy with a nice horse, all his runs have been good and he’s improving all the time. It was a nice performance.”

Mystical Power hunting Grade Two honours at Punchestown

Mystical Power puts his unbeaten record on the line when he leads Willie Mullins’ quest for a record-extending 10th victory in Punchestown’s Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.

Mullins has won this Grade Two event with some of the Closutton greats down the years, with the likes of Vautour, Douvan, Min and last year’s champion Impaire Et Passe all featuring on the roll of honour.

Now it is the regally-bred Mystical Power who has the chance to lay down a marker and put himself in the Cheltenham Festival picture in a race that has often identified prime Prestbury Park candidates.

Owned by JP McManus, the Galileo gelding is the first progeny of Champion Hurdle heroine Annie Power to hit the track and has lived up to his impeccable breeding so far, following up a Ballinrobe bumper victory with a seven-length romp on hurdles debut at Galway in the summer.

The five-year-old now returns after a 167-day break with connections keen to learn more about their exciting prospect, as he steps up markedly in class.

“Willie is very happy with him and we’re hoping for a good run,” said McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry.

“He won his novice and he’s been thrown in there, but he’s in good form and we hope for a good performance.

“He won nicely the day he won at Galway and probably the race didn’t work out that well. But he’s had a bit of a break after that and we’ll learn a bit more about him on Sunday.

“Willie has another in there as well, but ours is in good form and we’re hoping for a good run.”

Lombron was a good winner at Thurles
Lombron was a good winner at Thurles (Thomas Weekes/PA)

Mullins has a second string to his bow in the form of Thurles winner Lombron, who is the mount of Paul Townend, while former Closutton inmate and 2022 Champion Bumper third James’s Gate will be bidding to step forward from his Leopardstown debut for new handler Martin Brassil.

Felix Desjy and Andy Dufresne gave Gordon Elliott back-to-back Moscow Flyer victories in 2019 and 2020 and the master of Cullentra House goes for win number three with the Bective Stud-owned Jigoro, who was a taking nine-length scorer in heavy ground at Navan last month.

Elliott said: “He’s in good form and it’s a good race. He’d a good performance the last day in Navan. I’m happy with him.”

Tom Mullins’ useful bumper performer Fascile Mode was a winner over track and trip earlier in the season, but now has a point to prove having disappointed in Grade One company the last twice.

Rejuvenated Sir Gerhard ‘may go down Stayers’ Hurdle route’

Willie Mullins’ Sir Gerhard seemed to relish a return to smaller obstacles when taking the feature Tote Guarantee Available On Course & Tote.ie Hurdle at Punchestown.

The Cheveley Park-owned bay was top class over the smaller obstacles earlier in his career, taking the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022, having won the Champion Bumper at Prestbury Park 12 months previously.

Though he won on his chasing debut last January and finished a close second in the Grade One Gold Cup at Fairyhouse in April, his jumping did not always fill onlookers with confidence.

He was again tried over fences on his first run of this season but fell in the Barberstown Castle Chase at Naas and was reverted to hurdling this time around.

Under Paul Townend, he was the 10-11 favourite and looked to get his mojo back by winning by two and three-quarter lengths ahead of Thedevilscoachman.

“That was a nice performance and he’s got his confidence back over hurdles anyway,” said Mullins.

“We’ll probably stick to hurdles now this season and he may go down the Stayers’ Hurdle route.

“He jumped well at Naas until he fell and it took him a while to recover from that fall.

“I thought looking at him going down to the start that he looked big and I’d be hoping there is more improvement.”