Posts

Powersbomb on top at Punchestown

Powersbomb returned to winning form in the feature Ladbrokes Handicap Chase at Punchestown.

Phillip Enright challenged from off the pace on Brian McMahon’s 11-year-old, who was winning for the first time in 14 starts since November 2019.

The 14-1 shot was still two lengths down at the last, having been slightly hampered when Optical Confusion fell heavily at the previous fence.

But Enright conjured a telling surge from Powersbomb on the run-in, and they prevailed by three-quarters of a length from the always-prominent Us And Them.

County Galway trainer McMahon said: “John Staunton rides him out every day and had him spot on.

“He said to me yesterday he’ll run a big race, even though it looked very competitive for the end of May.

“He travelled super and jumped super. Phillip is able to switch him off and save a bit – which he needs, because he’s not the strongest finisher of all time. He came with one run, which was fabulous.

“He might have a little break now and come back for Galway.”

Enright added: “He’s a consistent old horse that doesn’t get his head in front too often – but thankfully everything worked out nicely today.

“He settled well and jumped brilliant and was game from the back of the last and battled to the line.

“It’s great for Brian and the lads, who do a great job with him and are very loyal to me.

“He’s not overly raced and runs great every day. The lads keep him sweet and happy and do a wonderful job with the horses.”

Politesse looks to have a bright future over fences
Politesse looks to have a bright future over fences (PA)

Promising mare Politesse had earlier provided a reminder of her potential with a dominant success at her first attempt over fences in the Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Beginners Chase.

Lorna Fowler’s former bumper and hurdles winner has been lightly-raced but was third at 66-1 on her debut at the 2019 Punchestown Festival, and also a Grade Two runner-up at Leopardstown last year.

Conor Orr took 9-4 favourite Politesse into a clear early lead, which she was never in any danger of relinquishing – eventually winning by 11 lengths from Premium Package.

Fowler said: “I’m delighted with her, and she’s a chaser all over.

“Things didn’t go right at the start of last season – stupid things had us off the track for a bit, but she finished fourth in a Grade One after nearly six months off the track (back at the Punchestown Festival this year).

“We’ve schooled her lots over fences, and she’s undoubtedly been a natural from the outset. We’re very lucky to have this (soft) ground at this time of year.

“The idea was to give her light, and if there wasn’t enough pace then let her on. She was very much in command of the situation.”

Full Noise rewarded his supporters in division one of the Ladbrokes Home Of The Odds Boost Handicap Hurdle.

Available at 12-1 on Saturday night, the David Dunne-trained winner was returned the 8-11 favourite.

Dunne said: “He’s a big baby and was probably lucky to win.

“He made a lot of mistakes in Wexford and was only beaten 17 lengths. He may have won but for that. That’s why we put him back over hurdles.

“This looked a weak enough race and we thought if he jumped adequately he had a chance.

“Once the money starts coming then the public latch on.”

Chaos reigned at the first flight in the Ladbrokes Where The Nation Plays Mares Maiden Hurdle – as favourite Mind Your Money fell in a melee which eliminated five of the 20 runners.

Paddy Kennedy, brought down on 100-1 shot Lady De Vesci, suffered a suspected broken jaw – while Rachael Blackmore, on Mind Your Money, missed her remaining rides because of a dead leg.

Donagh Meyler and Raven Rule kept well out of trouble, despite making a mistake of their own at the first, and were soon clear on the way to a 12-length success at 4-1 for Liam Burke.

Edward Harty has teamed up with his son, Patrick
Edward Harty has teamed up with his son, Patrick (PA)

There was a notable winner of the Ladbrokes “Play 1-2-Free” On Football Handicap Hurdle, with Whatucallher (15-2) getting the verdict in the stewards’ room after short-head winner Walking On Glass was demoted to second place.

It was a first victory for the father and son team of Edward and Patrick Harty, after they combined to become the first joint-licence holders in Ireland.

Patrick Harty said: “Today is our first day with a joint-licence so it’s a great start, but also a little bit bittersweet to win it in the stewards’ room as Padraig (Roche, trainer) is a neighbour and Jody (McGarvey, jockey) is a good friend of mine. I’m told she was a deserved winner.

“We have 35 horses riding out and I’m going to the breeze-up sales in Newmarket tomorrow hoping to pick up a few more. We’d like to maintain that for the summer and hopefully increase numbers as time goes on.

“We’ll take a nice horse in any discipline, but our focus is probably more on the Flat as commercially it is working out for us.”

Easy for Grangeclare West on bumper debut at Punchestown.

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!”

Envoi Allen suffered chipped joint in Punchestown defeat

A chipped joint has emerged as a viable excuse for Envoi Allen’s disappointing performance at last week’s Punchestown Festival.

Unbeaten in his first 11 starts under rules, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding met with defeat for the first time after falling when bidding for a third win at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Hopes were high he could bounce back to his brilliant best for a much-anticipated clash with Monkfish in Punchestown’s Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase.

However, Henry de Bromhead’s charge was struggling a long way from home before eventually being pulled up by Rachael Blackmore, while Monkfish failed to reel in his stablemate Colreevy.

Things have not gone to plan of late for Envoi Allen
Things have not gone to plan of late for Envoi Allen (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Envoi Allen was found to lame post-race and a subsequent CT scan at Fethard Equine Hospital has revealed the extent of his injury.

Cheveley Park’s managing director Chris Richardson said: “From the results of the investigations, it appears he has (chipped a joint).

“If you look at the picture of him taking off about a furlong before the second fence, it was the most unbelievable leap.

“Rachael obviously did the right thing by pulling him up. You could see that she had one tight rein and one loose rein, so things weren’t as expected.”

Rachael Blackmore with Sir Gerhard at Cheltenham
Rachael Blackmore with Sir Gerhard at Cheltenham (Michael Steele/PA)

Envoi Allen’s Cheltenham mishap was a rare blip at the Festival for the Cheveley Park team, who won with Sir Gerhard, Quilixios and Allaho, and went close to Gold Cup glory with A Plus Tard.

The Cheltenham winners were beaten at Punchestown, but Richardson added: “All the horses have had a long season and we had a wonderful Cheltenham.

“They can all go on holiday now and we can look forward to next year.”

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.”

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.”

Honeysuckle out to complete Champion double

Henry de Bromhead is delighted with Honeysuckle as the dream mare bids to take her perfect record under rules to 12 in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.

Honeysuckle has simply gone from strength to strength and has already won seven Grade Ones.

Her latest triumph at the top level came at the Cheltenham Festival last month when she lifted the biggest prize of them all, the Champion Hurdle.

Success on Friday would be a fitting way to cap her remarkable campaign.

Honeysuckle has never run at Punchestown – but it is where she was sold for €110,000 three years ago, just days after winning a point-to-point. She went to be trained by De Bromhead – and the rest is history.

“Every Sunday morning she reminds me how good she could be over fences as she just starts popping away and she does jump them really well,” he said.

“She’s done that all her life, so we don’t really think about it, and to win at Punchestown would be brilliant. It’s where we started the journey.”

De Bromhead was thrilled by her success at Cheltenham.

“She came off the bridle a little coming down the hill, but once she came upsides it was nice to watch,” he added.

“I was surprised she was that far back, but obviously it worked out – Rachael (Blackmore) was brilliant on her. They’re a great combination.

“She seems good. This is the first time she has run back after travelling, so that’s different. But she seems really well, and we’re happy.

“We’ll see about chasing – it’s something to discuss in the summer. She’s so good over hurdles you wonder if you can visualise her in a mares’ beginners’ chase somewhere.”

Blackmore and Honeysuckle have been an invincible partnership for the past three seasons.

“I love riding her, but that goes without saying,” the Grand National-winning jockey told BetVictor.

“She was incredible in Cheltenham, and seems to be improving all the time.

“She seems to have come out of Cheltenham really well. She didn’t go to Punchestown last year, but seems so well this year we’re hoping to keep it going.

“I think her performances this year show she’s improving. From the Irish Champion to Cheltenham, she’s improved with every run – and I’m just very lucky to have her.”

De Bromhead boosts his challenge with Champion Hurdle fourth Aspire Tower and Jason The Militant accompanying their illustrious stablemate.

“Aspire Tower will take her on again,” added the County Waterford handler.

“He’s in great form and came out of Cheltenham well, but his jumping let him down a bit there.

“Jason The Militant was a bit unfortunate (to unseat) at Aintree, but he seems in mighty form.

“It was frustrating. But he came back safe and sound, and we can’t complain too much.”

Sharjah, runner-up to Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle, takes the mighty mare on again and is Willie Mullins’ only representative in the race.

“Sharjah ran a fantastic race in Cheltenham,” said the champion trainer.

“I don’t think he could have improved much more.”

Former Champion Hurdle winner Epatante will be taking on Honeysuckle again
Former Champion Hurdle winner Epatante will be taking on Honeysuckle again (Tim Goode/PA)

Epatante was only third in the defence of her Cheltenham crown. But connections are pleased with the Nicky Henderson-trained mare as she has another crack at Honeysuckle. It is also her first race in Ireland.

“It’s a great race, and Honeysuckle is going to be very hard to beat,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.

“Nicky’s very happy with her, but he was happy with her going to Cheltenham as well. She has a bit to do to reverse the placings – Honeysuckle is very good and she is going to take a lot of beating.

“We just hope she runs a big race.”

Bob Olinger misses Punchestown outing

Bob Olinger is a late absentee from Friday’s Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle.

Henry de Bromhead’s hugely impressive Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner was found to be coughing on the morning of the race.

Having claimed a clean sweep of the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup at Cheltenham, De Bromhead has yet to fire at Punchestown – and Gold Cup hero Minella Indo was also a late absentee with a stone bruise.

De Bromhead had earlier taken out Decimation, who only ran two days ago.

In their absence only four remain, with three trained by Willie Mullins.

Jessica Harrington’s saddles Ashdale Bob, who was a narrow Grade Two winner at Fairyhouse this month.

“He’s probably up against it, but he hasn’t gone to Cheltenham and he’s won two Grade Twos, so he’s entitled to take his chance,” she said.

“It was great to see him win at Fairyhouse.”

Mullins’ runners are headed by Gaillard Du Mesnil, who was second to Bob Olinger at Cheltenham, with Ganapathi and N’golo completing the field.

Mullins said on his website: “Gaillard Du Mesnil came out of the Cheltenham race well. Realistically our other two runners are running for place money.

“Ganapathi found the trip too sharp in the County Hurdle, but that experience will help him here.

“N’golo ran too free in the Albert Bartlett but a change of tactics here might enable him to get a good share of the prize money.”

Concertista heads Mullins’ quartet in Mares Champion Hurdle

Willie Mullins launches a four-pronged assault as he bids to continue his dominance of the Coolmore Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.

The champion trainer has saddled seven of the last 10 winners of Saturday’s Grade One contest, with brilliant mares Annie Power and Benie Des Dieux both landing back-to-back renewals.

This year’s quartet is headed by Concertista, who was a beaten odds-on favourite at the Cheltenham Festival last month when touched off by Black Tears in the Mares’ Hurdle.

Mullins also runs Burning Victory – not seen since winning the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham last year – as well as My Sister Sarah and Stormy Ireland, who returned from a spell with Paul Nicholls to make a successful second debut for the Closutton yard at Fairyhouse over Easter.

Former Mullins inmate Skyace would be a popular winner for trainer Shark Hanlon.

Bought for the bargain-basement price of £600, the six-year-old has since won five races, including a Grade One success – a first for her trainer – at Fairyhouse on her latest appearance.

Another ex-Mullins runner Laurina makes her first start for new connections.

Global Equity (Joseph O’Brien), Minella Melody (Henry de Bromhead) and Politesse (Lorna Fowler) complete the nine-strong field.

Grade One honours are also up for grabs in the following Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, in which Triumph Hurdle hero Quilixios renews rivalry with a couple of Cheltenham foes.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding made a successful first start for De Bromhead, having been moved from Gordon Elliott’s yard, when powering up the famous hill in the Cotswolds last month.

He is taken on again by the Mullins-trained third Haut En Couleurs and Denise Foster’s fourth Zanahiyr.

The first two from the Boodles at Cheltenham are also in the mix – Noel Meade’s Jeff Kidder and Mullins’ Saint Sam.

Jeff Kidder has since continued his progression with a Grade Two success at Fairyhouse.

David Cottin’s Mica Malpic is an intriguing challenger from France, with Druid’s Altar (O’Brien), Palace Rock (Francis Casey) and Zoffanien (Denis Hogan) completing the field.

Townend moves six clear of Blackmore in championship race

Paul Townend stretched his lead to six over Rachael Blackmore in the race to be crowned Ireland’s champion National Hunt jockey with victory on Galopin Des Champs at Punchestown on Wednesday.

Townend had just the two rides to Blackmore’s four, but it was enough to see the three-time champion take a step closer to retaining his title with the scores standing at 97-91

He had an armchair ride on Galopin Des Champs, who looked a class act as he powered home by 12 lengths in the Grade One Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle.

Galopin Des Champs was impressive for Paul Townend
Galopin Des Champs was impressive for Paul Townend (Brian Lawless/PA)

Townend had started the day five ahead of Blackmore thanks to Chacun Pour Soi’s Grade One success on Tuesday.

That was the reigning champion’s first day back having been on the sidelines since suffering a foot injury in a fall at Fairyhouse’s Easter Festival.

In his absence, Blackmore had closed the gap to four, but Townend’s determination to be fit for the final week of the season has paid off.

Another blank day for Blackmore is a blow to her hopes to become Ireland’s first female champion jockey, although she does have six rides on Thursday and Champion Hurdle heroine Honeysuckle and exciting novice Bob Olinger to look forward to among her mounts on Friday.

Clan Des Obeaux flies high for Britain in Punchestown Gold Cup

Clan Des Obeaux put up a brilliant performance to strike for Britain in the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup following Ireland’s domination at Cheltenham.

The decision by Paul Nicholls to bypass that meeting with Clan Des Obeaux – who is co-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson – has paid a handsome dividend, with victory in the Betway Bowl at Aintree and again at Punchestown.

Al Boum Photo (6-4 favourite) did his best to keep the prize on home soil, but Willie Mullins’ dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero was no match for Clan Des Obeaux.

The 100-30 shot was given a positive ride by Sam Twiston-Davies from the start of the extended three-mile showpiece.

Melon led in the early stages with Clan Des Obeaux and Kemboy on his heels, but he was struggling when pulled up some way out.

Kemboy also gave way as Clan Des Obeaux increased the tempo, leaving Al Boum Photo and Fakir D’oudairies to try to haul back the leader.

Al Boum Photo put in a game effort – but dual King George hero Clan Des Obeaux maintained the gallop to cross the line a length and a half to the good, to give Nicholls a third win in the race after Neptune Collonges in 2007 and 2008.

Fakir D’oudairies was 17 lengths away in third, with Kemboy, the winner in 2019, last of the four finishers.

Nicholls said from his Ditcheat base: “A great performance. I always thought Punchestown would suit him. A great race and a good performance.

“Cheekpieces just woke him up and he’s done a good job – a good positive ride. We changed tactics with him and it worked well. It’s great for Sam and everybody involved.

“I’ve spoken to Ged (Mason, fellow owner). I think Sir Alex was with him. They are well pleased, as you can well imagine.”

Clan Des Obeaux answered every call for Sam Twiston-Davies
Clan Des Obeaux answered every call for Sam Twiston-Davies (Brian Lawless/PA)

Nicholls was represented at the track by assistant trainer Harry Derham, who said: “We’ve tried Cheltenham twice and he just doesn’t act around there.

“The cheekpieces have worked wonders and a big thanks to Harry Cobden on that as he wanted them on and they obviously worked fantastically at Aintree. I’m gutted for him (out injured), but delighted for everyone else.

“Sam gave him a fantastic ride. Paul was insistent that he wanted him to go a good gallop the whole way and try to kick off the last bend.

“Paul always said that Punchestown might suit him and it couldn’t have worked out better. I’ve only watched it once, but it looked like a proper Gold Cup in that they went a relentless gallop and that’s how you want those Grade One races to be run.

“We said we’d come out here and be brave, ride him really positively and if it works it works. I’m absolutely delighted.”

A big day for Sam Twiston-Davies
A big day for Sam Twiston-Davies (Brian Lawless/PA)

Twiston-Davies was thrilled, saying: “It’s tough because Harry Cobden would normally be sat here and he’s a good friend. He has my (former) job (stable jockey to Nicholls), but still you got to love the lad!

“Even after everything to have a relationship like this with Paul and all the team – it’s just very special and I couldn’t really thank them all enough.

“I feel a bit childish, but it is the stuff that dreams are made of. To come over here and to do it like that – being aggressive everywhere – is great.

“When you don’t know the track as well as the other lads you’re half worrying you’re going a stride quick, but Paul assured me he was fit and would keep going.

“Coming over you’re incredibly hopeful and when it was actually happens you’re stuck for words.”

Galopin Des Champs proves his class at Punchestown

Galopin Des Champs blew his rivals away with an impressive display to win the Grade One Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

The ex-French five-year-old was having just his fifth start since joining the formidable Willie Mullins team and looks an exciting prospect.

Galopin Des Champs was one of the three Cheltenham Festival winners in the nine-runner field, having taken the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle last month, and he had no trouble proving his worth at the top level.

Stattler, stablemate of the winner, made the running – but Galopin Des Champs was always travelling easily for Paul Townend and went on after jumping the second-last flight.

The 13-8 favourite stormed clear to score by 12 lengths. Gentlemansgame took second place by a length and a half from Stattler.

Townend said: “It was straightforward. He settled lovely, but you have to for a three-mile race like that.

“I was in front a hell of a lot earlier than I anticipated – I won’t say too soon because he’s won – though definitely a lot sooner than I thought I would be.”

Mullins said: “He’s very slick over his hurdles. I said to Paul ‘what did you think?’ and he said he could be a Stayers’ Hurdle candidate. I like to go chasing with them quickly. We’ll see.”

The Closutton handler completed a Grade One double when Kilcruit (11-8) reversed Cheltenham bumper form with stablemate Sir Gerhard.

The latter got the verdict by half a length there, but he was only third this time as Kilcruit turned the tables in emphatic fashion in the ITM – Supporting Irish Store Sales Champion INH Flat Race.

Lake Winnipesaukee soon built up an early lead, but he was caught well over half a mile out with Kilcruit enjoying a dream run on the rail to get into contention under Derek O’Connor.

Sir Gerhard ranged alongside but was soon brushed aside by Kilcruit (11-8), who went on to score by four and three-quarter lengths from O’toole. Sir Gerhard (5-6 favourite) was another length and three-quarters back in third.

Mullins said: “He looked pretty good there. He glided down to the start. He loved that ground and when you consider how well he handled really heavy ground at Navan in the middle of winter and then win like that – this horse could be anything.

“We’ve had the family for years and years and I think this could be the last one out of it. My mother (breeder) will be happy this evening, and it’s great for Mags and Michael Masterson (owners).”

He added of the Masterson-owned Appreciate It, who was brilliant in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham: “Appreciate It will be back for next season. He just had a small setback which we couldn’t get right for this week.”

Energumene seeks perfect conclusion at Punchestown

Energumene bids to extend his winning sequence at Punchestown  – and in the process set the scene for what promises to be a titanic clash with Shishkin at some stage next season.

Owned by Brighton & Hove Albion football chairman Tony Bloom, the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old put down a real marker for championship honours when winning the Irish Arkle in tremendous fashion at Leopardstown in February.

All the talk then after his third win in as many chase starts was of the upcoming ‘race of the week’ in the Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham against Shishkin.

But in the end a setback put that on hold, and Nicky Henderson’s novice star duly won with ease in Energumene’s absence.

Energumene with Paul Townend and Willie Mullins at Leopardstown
Energumene with Paul Townend and Willie Mullins at Leopardstown (Niall Carson/PA)

Mullins is happy again with Energumene, having conceded at one stage he thought his season could be over.

The Closutton handler said: “Energumene had a little mishap before Cheltenham, and I thought that was him for the season, but he recovered quickly.

“I was trying to get him ready for Fairyhouse and then I felt it wasn’t fair on the horse to go to Fairyhouse, so I said I’d wait for Punchestown.

“He’s been fine since, so I’m looking forward to getting him out.”

Just four rivals take on Paul Townend’s mount, chief among them Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness – who fell in the Irish Arkle and was then third to Shishkin at the Festival, some 13 lengths adrift, having been involved in a duel up front with Allmankind.

Captain Guinness (left) locked in battle with Allmankind at Cheltenham
Captain Guinness (left) locked in battle with Allmankind at Cheltenham (David Davies/Jockey Club)

De Bromhead hopes for better this time.

He said: “I don’t think we saw the best of him – the pair of them went a gear too fast throughout.

“I said to Rachael (Blackmore) ‘could we commit’ – and I didn’t think anyone could go with us – but obviously Allmankind did. I probably got her too committed, so it was my fault. It didn’t work out, so we’ll see how we get on.”

Mullins has a second challenger in Fairyhouse Grade One scorer Janidil, while Zarkareva gives the De Bromhead team two chances. The field is completed by the Joseph O’Brien-trained Embittered.

Flooring Porter out to cap brilliant campaign

Cheltenham hero Flooring Porter bids to follow up in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown.

It is remarkable to think the six-year-old was rated in the low 120s this time last year, since when he has made huge strides.

A runaway handicap success at Navan was followed by a surprise Grade One victory at Leopardstown over Christmas, but he proved that was no fluke with an excellent front-running display in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last month.

Cromwell is keeping his fingers crossed Flooring Porter’s latest big-race assignment does not prove one too many on Thursday as he faces his seventh outing since racing resumed in July.

“He’s come out of Cheltenham well,” said the Meath-based trainer.

“He had a hard race there – he wears his heart on his sleeve. But he seems to have freshened up well, and we’re happy with him.

“For all of these horses, it’s been a long season. They may seem well at home, but you don’t really know till you go there.”

Cromwell’s stable jockey Jonathan Moore missed the ride at Cheltenham after standing himself down on the morning of the race.

Jonathan Moore (left) with Flooring Porter after winning at Cheltenham
Jonathan Moore (left) with Flooring Porter after winning at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Danny Mullins played the role of super-sub in the Cotswolds, but Moore will be back on board this week.

Cromwell added: “He had a winner last week, so he’ll be riding him.

“It would be great for him (Moore) if he could win, absolutely.”

Flooring Porter is reopposed by several horses who finished behind him at Cheltenham, including Noel Meade’s fourth home Beacon Edge and the fifth The Storyteller, trained by Denise Foster.

The Storyteller is one of two runners for the Cullentra team – along with Fury Road, who disappointed at Prestbury Park.

Of The Storyteller, Foster said: “He is a great favourite in the yard and he’s such a lovely, versatile horse as he has shown throughout this season.

“He has run some great races at Grade One level and he’s such an honest horse as he always turns up and gives his all.”

Heaven Help Us and Mrs Milner step up in class after sealing popular wins in handicap company at Cheltenham.

Heaven Help Us winning the Coral Cup at Cheltenham
Heaven Help Us winning the Coral Cup at Cheltenham (Tim Goode/PA)

Paul Hennessy’s Heaven Help Us landed the fiercely competitive Coral Cup, while the Paul Nolan-trained Mrs Milner impressed in winning the Pertemps Final.

Hennessy said: “We’re going to give it a go, and the trip swayed us to running in this race more than anything else. She’s been in great form since Cheltenham – she came out of the race in tremendous form, and there’s not a bother on her.

“I know it’s a big step up, but we’ve long been living in bonus territory with this mare, and it’s great to be involved and have the opportunity to compete at this level.”

Nolan is similarly aware of the task facing Mrs Milner.

He said: “It’s a very competitive race and a big step up for her. But we were absolutely thrilled with the win at Cheltenham, and she doesn’t owe us anything.

“She seems in good form, and we’re hoping for a respectable run as she’s nearly always given us before. She always runs a creditable race and seems to be a mare that is improving.”

Ronald Pump is a fascinating contender for Matthew Smith. Runner-up in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last year, the eight-year-old has been off the track since pushing brilliant mare Honeysuckle all the way in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse.

Explaining his stable star’s absence, Smith said: “He missed Christmas with a stone bruise and then he had a splint bothering him before Cheltenham.

“He got over that, and everything was going well then until he overreached when he was cantering about a week and a half ago. He was lame for a couple of days, which meant he missed a piece of work he probably would have badly needed.

“He could come on for the run on Thursday, but we’ll be glad to get him out. Whether he’s a piece of work or two short, we’ll find out.

Klassical Dream returns to action
Klassical Dream returns to action (Niall Carson/PA)

“Things haven’t been straightforward since the Hatton’s Grace, but these things happen with horses.

“We’ll run on Thursday – and if everything goes well and he comes out of it well, we have the option of taking him to France.”

Willie Mullins saddles Stayers’ Hurdle seventh Bacardys and the long-absent Klassical Dream, as well as Saldier and James Du Berlais, who both step up in distance after failing to figure in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The sole British-trained in a 15-strong field is Jane Williams’ Agrapart, with Meade’s second string Diol Ker, the Mouse Morris-trained French Dynamite and Sole Pretender from Norman Lee’s yard completing the field.

Honeysuckle heads Punchestown’s Champion Hurdle field

Henry de Bromhead fires a three-strong team in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at Punchestown – with the peerless Honeysuckle at the forefront.

The brilliant mare has taken her form to a new level this season, winning a second Irish Champion Hurdle before a dominant display in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

She is 11 from 11 under Rules and is odds-on to remain unbeaten against seven rivals on Friday.

De Bromhead also fields the five-year-old Aspire Tower, a fine fourth at Cheltenham, and Jason The Militant who unseated Rachael Blackmore at Aintree.

Denise Foster’s Abacadabras returned to winning ways at Aintree, though, and will ensure Honeysuckle does not face a stroll in the park.

Willie Mullins’ Sharjah got closest to her last month and also lines up, as does Nicky Henderson’s Epatante – winner of the 2020 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

With Goshen and Darver Star completing the eight-strong field, the race is set to be one of the highlights of the week.

Just six have been declared in the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle – and they include De Bromhead’s Decimation, due to run on Wednesday.

Stablemate Bob Olinger is the headline act, though, after his imperious display at Cheltenham in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

Mullins will field three of his rivals – Gaillard Du Mesnil, who proved no match for him at Cheltenham, Ganapathi  and N’Golo.

Jessica Harrington’s Ashdale Bob, a Grade Two winner at Fairyhouse last time out, is also in the field. But Mullins’ Supreme winner Appreciate It is a notable absentee.

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.

“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.”

Townend edges five clear of Blackmore thanks to Chacun victory

Paul Townend stretched his lead over Rachael Blackmore to five winners in the race to be crowned Ireland’s champion National Hunt jockey as he steered Chacun Pour Soi to success on his return to action at Punchestown.

The reigning champion had been on the sidelines since suffering a foot injury in a fall at Fairyhouse’s Easter Festival, but won his race to be fit for the final week of the season.

In his absence, Blackmore had closed the gap to four. But Townend strengthened his grip on the title again with a Grade One victory aboard the brilliant Chacun Pour Soi in the William Hill Champion Chase – trained by Willie Mullins and owned by Rich and Susannah Ricci.

“It’s a very important week and luckily we’re back 100 per cent on a horse,” said Townend, who has moved to 96 winners for the season to Blackmore’s 91.

“I just want to thank everyone. I’m not going to name names, because I’m going to forget someone, but a lot of people put in a lot of hard work to get me back.

“When you’ve horses like that (Chacun Pour Soi) to look forward to, it makes your recovery and the effort you put in a lot easier.

“I’m very grateful to Willie and the owners for putting me up on the first day of the Punchestown Festival.”

A blank day for Blackmore means she appears to have her work cut out to become Ireland’s first female champion jockey, although she does have the likes of Champion Hurdle heroine Honeysuckle and exciting novice Bob Olinger to look forward to later in the week.