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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Bellshill secures on-fire Mullins a first double century in epic showdown

But perceived injustice of Grand National appeal is a very sore point

Over the last: Bellshill (left) clears the final fence under David Mullins on the way to victory over Djakadam in the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup
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Willie Mullins was in the process of turning water into wine when Bellshill announced himself a staying chaser of serious potential by denying Djakadam in another epic edition of the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup, but a relatively minor reversal tempered his mood.

Mullins claimed a fourth success in the three-mile event en route to landing six of the day's seven races – and devoured Gordon Elliott’s championship lead to finish €48,162 in front – when the David Mullins-ridden eight-year-old clung on by three-parts of a length.

However, the champion trainer remained preoccupied by what he perceived to be an injustice.

In a gruelling edition of the Irish Grand National three weeks earlier, Bellshill had been demoted from fourth to fifth by the race day stewards after impeding the Elliott-trained Folsom Blue when he ran across the final fence.

David Mullins: the Grand National-winning jockey is 22

It cost him €10,000 in terms of prize-money won and Mullins lodged an appeal, which was dismissed at a hearing chaired by Nick Wachman before racing on Tuesday. After Bellshill secured him a first double century here at odds of 4-1, Mullins did not hide the fact that he had a real beef with the outcome of the appeal. 

“To come back from Fairyhouse, where he was very unlucky, and win like that, it just shows what he had left in the tank when he made the mistake at the last at Fairyhouse,” Mullins said.

“I was amazed he was disqualified, absolutely amazed. Gobsmacked. And I couldn't get over that it wasn't overturned yesterday.

"What a horse does over a fence, a horse does over a fence. I think yesterday's appeal opened up a huge can of worms. Anything that happens over a fence now in any part of a race is open for a horse to be disqualified.”

Willie Mullins celebrates landing six of the seven races at Punchestown

Elaborating on those sentiments, Mullins recalled a similar appeal from years gone by that went the other way and felt he had been precluded from providing evidence of precedents to further his case.

“I thought Bellshill was very harshly treated and I'm not happy with the process. I had made the same appeal from the other side of the coin eight or nine years ago, with the same chairman as yesterday, and he disallowed it then and yesterday he disallowed the opposite. I can't understand it.

“I've never seen a horse disqualified for making a mistake in my life when a jockey wasn’t to blame and we weren't allowed to use that in our evidence. It wasn't even considered, so I was very, very disappointed.”

After getting that off his chest, Mullins spoke glowingly of Bellshill, who finished third behind Might Bite in last year’s RSA Chase.

Under less aggressive tactics than were deployed by the same rider on Easter Monday, he was positioned just off the pace set by Djakadam here. From three out, he responded generously for pressure to eyeball the Patrick Mullins-ridden stalwart on touching down over the second-last.

Coral Punchestown Gold Cup race replay, result and analysis

BoyleSports Irish Grand National Chase replay, result and analysis

For all that Djakadam rallied in characteristically brave fashion, Bellshill was always holding him, condemning Djakadam to the runner-up berth in this €275,000 contest for a galling fourth time. The favourite Road To Respect kept on for third.

“I think he is,” Mullins replied when asked if Graham Wylie’s charge could be Cheltenham Gold Cup material. “He has a huge engine and he just idled a bit in front. David gave him a terrific ride and I’m delighted for Graham Wylie.”

It was a third Grade 1 of the campaign for the winning jockey, who had just been denied a second Grand National success when Pleasant Company was thwarted by Tiger Roll at Aintree.

"It was a sickener to lose the Irish National, but we've got something back and it's great to do it at Punchestown for Willie," the 21-year-old said of the winner, who was quoted at 20-1 for next year's Timico Gold Cup by Paddy Power. "It's a bit special." 

Mullins indicated that Djakadam, who had finished fifth behind Native River at Cheltenham, could be set for a French excursion next month. “Djakadam ran a cracker and Patrick got a great tune out of him,” he said. "We’re thinking of going to Paris for the Grand Steeplechase de Paris.”

Follow all the action from Punchestown with our live blog and Raceday Live – available every day of the festival


I've never seen a horse disqualified for making a mistake in my life when a jockey wasn’t to blame
E.W. Terms
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