One-man show as Willie Mullins domination continues with fantastic five-timer
Klassical Dream started it and from there it was a one-man show as Willie Mullins once again ruled supreme at the Punchestown festival with a fantastic five-timer.
The Champion Stayers Hurdle hero kickstarted the Closutton trainer's magnificent feat as he landed the last five races on the card to end the day on 13 winners for the meeting already, with two days still left to go.
He recorded a landmark victory for JP McManus when Capodanno justified 11-2 favouritism under Jody McGarvey in the Conway Piling Handicap Hurdle to give McManus his 100th festival victory.
Energumene then strolled home in the Ryanair Novice Chase, before Gaoloise sauntered to success under Paul Townend in the Listed mares’ novice hurdle and Dysart Diamond brought up the five-timer with a bloodless victory in the 2m bumper under Patrick Mullins.
Honeyball gets rub of the green
Anthony Honeyball has embarked on many Punchestown sorties over the years but a pair of seconds with stable stalwart Regal Encore was as close as he had come with any of his first ten runners.
His redoubtable 13-year-old will have a fourth stab at the festival on Saturday with Honeyball at least having broken his duck in the meantime. Sully D'Oc AA, likewise sporting JP McManus's silks, ran out a game winner of the Pigsback.com Handicap Chase under Simon Torrens.
The jockey was riding his 34th winner of a campaign that he will finish with the champion conditional rider's crown, but it was a new experience on Irish soil for Honeyball, who was moved to suggest the winner could be a more regular visitor next term.
Second under regular rider Richie McLernon in the Red Rum Chase, Sully D'Oc AA was one of five McManus had in this and returned a 6-1 SP after seeing off Raya Time in first-time cheekpieces.
"We had been hitting the bar here so I'm delighted with that," Honeyball said. "This fellow ran really well at Aintree and I just felt he was fresh enough to come over here. It was going to be his last run of the season before going to Martinstown, and we thought we'd try the cheekpieces.
"The way the race was run probably suited him as well compared to the end-to-end gallop at Aintree. They went a sensible gallop and that helped him get his confidence up, so it's possible the Irish style of racing suits him and we could well come back here to other festivals next season as well."
Banjo doubles up in La Touche
Willie Mullins might be the undisputed Punchestown kingpin but Philip Rothwell has enjoyed a memorable few days, and he sent out Singing Banjo to complete a famous banks double when he added the Mongey Communications La Touche Cup to Tuesday's Ladies' Cup success.
Cousin Harry also scored for the stable on the opening card so this was Rothwell's third triumph in as many days. However, he enjoyed a rub of the green early on here when Call It Magic and Some Neck nearly took the wrong course, in the process pushing Alpha Des Obeaux out of the race.
Singing Banjo's task was eased a little following that melee, although the 33-1 shot is such a deft operator over banks that the ratings gap might have mattered for a lot less than it did on paper. The 11-year-old's only other wins prior to this had come in a couple of point-to-points, likewise under Barry Walsh.
Rothwell has been resurgent since the turn of the year, although he was keen to deflect praise for Singing Banjo's exploits to the Walsh family.
"It's super, unbelievable," he said. "But this is a family success. It's all about the Walsh family. Aran, Barry's brother, owns the horse, his father John trains him for all the point-to-points. This is just an honour for me – it is all about Barry and Alan and John.
"They have banks at home and they school their horses, and I've run them in the banks races for them over the years. We absolutely love it so this is just marvellous.
"We ran him in hunter chases just to have him as fit as we could today, and he'd be so outclassed by some of those horses, but when he goes out over the banks he just latches on to the bridle and he loves it."
There was a sad postscript to the event when Some Neck collapsed and died on the run to the finishing line.
The card's opening handicap hurdle went to Jiving Jerry for County Kilkenny trainer Jimmy Barcoe and rider Cathal Landers. An 11-2 shot, Jiving Jerry knuckled down gamely for Landers to fend off the persistent challenge of Flindt and secure Barcoe a first festival success.
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