Morning Assembly (left) battles with Inish IslandPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Morning Assembly shock Daily Mirror winner
Report: Punchestown, Wednesday
Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m, 4yo+
MORNING ASSEMBLY, tackling 3m for the first time and a faller on his previous run in Graded company, sprung a 14-1 surprise when holding off Inish Island.
The race appeared to centre around the Willie Mullins duo of Inish Island and Ballycasey, but depite holding every chance, the pair had to settle for minor placings.
Well touted for the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival before being ruled out with a muscle injury, Ballycasey was expected to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles and was sent off the even-money favourite.
Stablemate Inish Island did take part at Cheltenham, finishing third behind At Fishers Cross in the Albert Bartlett, and the pair were settled just off the pace with Road To Riches taking the field along.
Morning Assembly was also prominent in third, sandwiched between the two Mullins runners for Davy Condon, with the seven runners tightly grouped throughout.
With three flights left to jump all the field still had a chance, Ruby Walsh appearing happy to stalk the pace up the inside on Ballycasey.
Morning Assembly took over at the second last, with the final turn not benefiting Ballycasey who was shuffled back as space on the inside shrank.
Paul Townend had gone in pursuit of Morning Assembly on Inish Island, while Ballycasey started to pick up when in the clear down the straight, but Condon's mount was game in front to secure victory.
Trainer Pat Fahy said: After he fell last time at Fairyhouse we were just down on the ground, we didn't know what to think or where to go but we decided to stick with him and come to the Grade 1 here.
"I felt, that was it, when Inish Island came alongside but he was going to run a big race and I didn't care, but then he was just flying at the finish. That's him, he's just a dour stayer."