Brilliant mare Quevega wins by a bloody nose from the favourite in big race

The withdrawal of favourite Solwhit was a disappointment for Punchestown racegoers

Alice Kelly, from Blackwater, Co Wexford at Punchestown races yesterday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Alice Kelly, from Blackwater, Co Wexford at Punchestown races yesterday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


The race of the day turned out to be the anti-climax of the day for the punters yesterday.

Much of the anticipation was centred on whether the Willie Mullins-trained mare Quevega, three times a previous winner of the Ladbroke World Series Hurdle, could confirm her class against the pre-race favourite Solwhit, an eight-time Grade One winner.

Just as the horses were going to post, jockey Davy Russell dismounted from Solwhit. The race was delayed. The worst was confirmed moments later. Solwhit appeared to be bleeding from a nostril.

A burst blood vessel was suspected – it turned out to be a scratch – and the race went ahead without him. There was an audible groan among the punters when it was confirmed that the great duel would not go ahead.

Grace of God
“There but for the grace of God, it could be me,” said Mullins afterwards. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

Mullins admitted that Solwhit’s withdrawal was “nerve wracking” as the sense of expectation was increased on Quevega. Any doubts were confounded when Quevega won by five lengths from Reve De Sivola.

The day belonged to the brilliant mare. Four wins in four consecutive Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle. “You never get used to it,” said co-owner Ger O’Brien.

Jockey Ruby Walsh had nothing but praise for Quevega and her handlers. “Her lad does a brilliant job with her because she is not the easiest mare in the world to look after. He doesn’t speak much English but he speaks Quevega.”

There was drama of a different sort in the Naas Court Hotel and Il Fico Restaurant Handicap Hurdle when Followmeuptocarlow was cantering home only to tie up over the last. The exhausted horse was reeled in by Acapulco.

It was dry for the most part yesterday, warm when the sun came out and cold when it went in. The best day of the week, according to RTÉ weather presenter Nuala Carey who is predicting showers for today.

Well-known faces were thin on the ground though it was a first appearance ever at Punchestown for former Ireland soccer international Tony Cascarino, despite his reputation as a well-known gambler.

“I’ve been to the Curragh and Galway. I’ve had a few winners so I can’t complain. I’m going to take one out of Jack Charlton’s book and keep the profit,” he said.

The best dressed lady was won by Gillian Gilbourne (40), a part-time librarian from Millstreet, Co Cork. Her dress was a pink silk Donegal tweed with a vintage vibe about it and was made for her by Charlotte and James in Kinsale, Co Cork. The hat was by Edel Ramberg and the bag was made by her mother-in-law.