Mullins makes it lucky 13 to complete dream festival
Two more Grade Ones ends great week at Punchestown
Davy Russell celebrates being crowned Champion Jockey with his father Gerry on the final day of the Punchestown Festival. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan
Willie Mullins ended his Punchestown Festival on a high as he claimed the final two Grade Ones of the week to take his tally for the meeting to 13 winners.
Wins for Glens Melody (7 to 2) in the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association Fillies Scheme European Breeders Fund Mares Hurdle and Diakali in the AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle topped off the fixture nicely for the dominant Mullins.
Both wins demonstrated the strength in depth that Mullins has, as Ruby Walsh rode the disappointing Tarla in Glens Melody’s race while the first four home in juvenile heat hailed from his Co Carlow yard.
Jockey Paul Townend finally opened his account for the week on Glens Melody, who found an extra gear to see off Shadow Eile by two and a quarter lengths.
Mullins said: “That’s a nice surprise. I thought she looked great in the parade ring and she seems to be stronger since her last run in Fairyhouse. She showed a turn of foot there today which I didn’t think she had.
“I’m not sure on plans for the future but I very much doubt she’ll go chasing. She’s a very valuable broodmare prospect.
“The owners have a nice a breeding operation and she will be a great addition to their paddocks. Tarla just ran a bit flat.”
Diakali took full advantage of the absence of Our Conor in the juvenile race, having seen the rear end of Dessie Hughes’s Triumph Hurdle winner the last twice.
Mullins’s grey made every yard of the running in the hands of Walsh, with Blood Cotil finishing a two-length second while stablemates Dogora and Djakadam were a long way back in third and fourth.
Mullins said: “He’s a horse who can be a bit hard on himself but he jumped well today.
“We’ve a lot more work to do at home to teach him to settle, but the hood certainly helped today.
“He’s very keen but I think there’s a lot more to come if we can get him to settle properly.”
Mullins and Walsh then teamed up for their 13th and eighth winners respectively of the week when The Paparazzi Kid (7 to 1) came from way back to win the Setanta Sports Handicap Hurdle.
Sizing Australia (12 to 1) denied Enda Bolger’s Zest For Life a second win of the week by just a short head in the Irish Field Chase.
“We’ve been hitting the crossbar quite a bit all week so I’m delighted,” said winning trainer Henry De Bromhead.
“I’m so pleased for the old boy because he’s a warrior, he won at Cheltenham a few years ago.”
Trainer Richard Lee went close earlier in the week with Gassin Golf but his enterprising spirit paid off when Grey Gold won the Madra Irish Dog Food Novice Chase.
Only three faced the starter as four were taken out in the morning, but his two rivals were still of the highest calibre.
The mercurial Mikael D’Haguenet and the classy Aupcharlie have been faring well in Grade Ones this season but their jumping did not help their cause.
Aupcharlie fell at the last when looking beaten and he nearly brought down his stablemate as Grey Gold (6 to 1) and Bryan Cooper gained a notable victory.
Lee said: “We nearly had a winner here on Wednesday and if he had jumped the last better, I thought he’d have won too.
“We came here for the soft ground and he loves it. He’s very inexperienced and it’s only his third run over fences, but I’m proud of the way he jumped and is a credit to my team at home.”
Katie Walsh, a late replacement for Andrew Lynch after Aupcharlie’s fall, arrived late on the scene on board Carrig Millie to win the Three Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase.
Wicklow Lad, Irish National winner Liberty Counsel and Wyck Hill all looked to have a chance in the straight as On His Own weakened, but Carrig Millie pounced to win by two and a half lengths from Wicklow Lad with David Bridgwater’s Wyck Hill third.
Winning trainer Michael Cullen said: “Katie gave her a great ride.
“The mare has a staying pedigree, she’s by Milan so we always thought she’d stay.
“It’s great for the owner and great for the yard, we’ve won this race before.”
Mullins was again crowned champion trainer while his son Patrick was the top amateur.
Davy Russell retained his title as champion jump jockey in Ireland with his third century and a hatful of winners for many trainers.
Russell has yet to pass the 126 he achieved when runner-up in the 2007-08 campaign behind Ruby Walsh, but his total of 103 was enough to claim the crown, although it was one less than last year’s winning tally.
Mark Enright landed his first conditional title with 35 victories.