Allaho storms to superb Punchestown Gold Cup victory

Triumph on day two of festival secures Grade One hat-trick for Willie Mullins

Allaho's superb Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup victory on Wednesday supplied diehard jumping fans with perfect debate material while the supposedly effete flat game winds its way through the summer.

The dual-Ryanair Chase winner translated his power and class to three miles with rare aplomb on day two of the festival, putting 14 lengths and more between himself and a field of Grade One winners as a 6-5 favourite.

It was the centrepiece of a Grade One hat-trick for Willie Mullins who scored with two other Cheltenham festival winners in Facile Vega and The Nice Guy.

For good measure the festival kingpin also scored with the handicap topweight Royal Rendezvous but there was no budging Allaho’s rout from centre stage.


His performance was a lot of things but hardly subtle. Making no allowance for any pre-race stamina worries, Allaho and Paul Townend simply went straight to the lead and overpowered their opposition.

With all of six fences to jump no less than the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup Minella Indo cried enough and was pulled up. Both the dual "Blue Riband" hero Al Boum Photo and last year's winner Clan Des Obeaux tried to reel in Allaho but ultimately had to settle for honourable if leg-weary places.

It was a resounding display of galloping power at three miles and barely had the sweat dried on Allaho’s back than Mullins was being quizzed about his chances of doing the same over an extra two and a half furlongs in the Gold Cup that counts most at Cheltenham next March.

“I don’t know about three and a quarter,” was an understandably non-committal initial answer to a hypothetical scenario 11 months away. “But I do think he’s better going left-handed. That extra quarter mile is tough when you know what he can do over two and a half.”

There are complicating factors too such as Allaho's owners, Cheveley Park Stud, possessing a certain A Plus Tard. Mullins also has the outstanding novice Galopin Des Champs to go to war with. There's even time's habit of punishing presumption when it comes to horses and injuries.

But the champion trainer looked as close to giddy as he ever gets over a horse and pointedly kept his options open.

“He’s just got a huge engine. I always hoped he could do what he did there. I was a bit worried he could only put in that sort of performance over two and a half but now he’s able to do it over three so it’s all good looking forward.

“He’s going to be more mature again next year. These three-mile chasers need plenty of time,” he said.

That hint of temptation to check out how far the stamina gauge will run to will be enough to persuade those who think slashed 8-1 Gold Cup odds are a steel to keep dreaming of Allaho powering up the Cheltenham hill next year.


There don’t appear to be any limits on dreams for what Facile Vega might do but he is already just the fourth horse to complete the Cheltenham-Punchestown champion bumper double.

The son of Quevega had to battle for the first time in his career to beat stable companion Redemption Day but indicated he has grit to go with his class.

"He was flat today and he still won. He got headed and he battled back. He's the full package. He can do it tough if he needs to," Patrick Mullins said.

If ever there’s been proof that nice guys don’t always come last then the Mullins team have it.

The Nice Guy, a seven year old that never loses, extended his unbeaten record to five with victory in the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle.

On the back of his Albert Bartlett victory at Cheltenham he completed the big Spring festival double and confounded his trainer yet again.

A belated start to his career only occurred with a bumper victory in November. He followed that up with another bumper over Christmas, secured a first hurdle a month later, before beating the odds again at Cheltenham.

He started a 15-8 favourite on Wednesday and once again got the better of his stable companion Minella Cocooner while giving the impression of unplumbed depths.

“He’s a unique specimen in his own way. He totally surprises us and wouldn’t win any sort of race at home on our gallop but he loves it on grass on the track,” Mullins said. “He’s the exact opposite of a morning glory. He does it in the afternoon, which is tremendous.”

Peter Fahey’s 7-4 favourite Freedom To Dream could finish only fourth in the auction hurdle final but the trainer still won it with his 40-1 outsider Ambitious Fellow.

Racing finished with first festival winner for a famous name as Pat Taaffe partnered The Model Kingdom to Grade Three success in the mares bumper.

The Punchestown festival’s Day 2 crowd reached 19,934. That was up over a thousand on the equivalent 2019 attendance of 18,887.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column