Gritty Allaho claims Durkan Chase as favourite Envoi Allen fails to fire

Timely reminder of quality at Mullins’s disposal in the wake of Elliott’s remarkable seven-timer at Navan

Patrick Mullins on Allaho clears the last before coming home  to win the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Patrick Mullins on Allaho clears the last before coming home to win the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

 

Jockey Patrick Mullins got a perfect birthday present at Punchestown on Sunday as Allaho landed the John Durkan Chase.

Racing’s most successful ever amateur jockey celebrated turning 32 with Grade One glory on the Cheveley Park-owned star who led home a big race 1-2-3 for Willie Mullins.

On the back of Gordon Elliott’s record-breaking 37,381-1 seven-timer at Navan on Saturday it was a timely reminder of the quality ammunition the Mullins team has ready to unleash.

The perennial champion trainer had barely time to pose for pictures after Allaho’s success before watching the closing stages of his exciting prospect Energumene winning the Hilly Way Chase at Cork.

That completed a hat-trick for Mullins and jockey Sean O’Keeffe at the Mallow venue while in a frantic half hour another Cheveley Park star Ferny Hollow won his first start over fences at Punchestown.

Patrick Mullins did the steering on him as well to definitely turn upside down any frown he might have had after Saturday’s Sandown action. The odds-on Chacun Pour Soi barely raised a gallop and flopped in last in the Tingle Creek.

That the race culminated in an emotional victory for Mullins’s girlfriend Bryony Frost in the midst of a BHA enquiry into her claims of bullying and harassment was substantial consolation.

But fears for general stable form on the back of Chacun Pour Soi’s eclipse were hardly eased on Sunday when Kilcruit got turned over at prohibitive odds of 1-14 on his hurdling debut at Cork.

Having the shortest-priced beaten favourite seen for decades was hardly what either Mullins had anticipated.

However the ship steadied with victories for Dysart Dynamo and Concertista in Cork before Allaho struck in the Durkan despite doing plenty wrong.

On his first start of the season the top-rated runner adopted his usual front-running role but jumped persistently left and didn’t even do so with his usual alacrity.

Stark contrast

When his stable companion Asterion Forlonge eased up his inside at the third last he looked a much more likely prospect but once he exited Allaho dug in with admirable grit.

It made for a stark contrast to Cheveley Park’s other big contender Envoi Allen. The 7-4 favourite travelled smoothly to four out and found little when asked and eventually finished sixth.

If it is unwise to be definitive about such things it is hard to avoid the suspicion that a horse hyped as jump racing’s next big thing might follow the likes of Samcro and Duguib as ultimately failing to live up to stratospheric expectations.

The attribute of getting the job done however necessary appeared to be in Mullins Jnr’s mind after Allaho’s success.

“It was hard work. He never really carried me. He has got from A to B but I think he’s much better than the bare form,” he said. “He won despite not being at his best. I think Asterion Forlonge had the best of me at the third last and he slipped”

Mullins collected a three-day suspension for his use of the whip on Allaho. His argument that three of his strikes were for corrective purposes was not accepted by the by stewards.

Mullins Snr didn’t commit to plans for the winner although considering the way he jumped left 6-1 quotes for the King George are unlikely to have many takers.

“He was very brave and it’s fantastic to win a Grade One at this part of the season. I’m just hoping it doesn’t take too much out of him for the rest of the season. He had a very, very hard race,” he said.

However on a weekend when the full force of his Closutton team came to bear for the first time this season there was an ominous warning from Mullins about what’s to come.

“Our horses are not fully wound up yet and I was hoping his [Allaho’s] ability would pull him through,” he said. “I was very happy with the way they all performed and hoping they will all improve from that.”

Seven winners

Gordon Elliott saddled three more winners on Sunday to go with his remarkable seven-timer the day before.

No trainer in Ireland and Britain had ever before saddled seven winners at the one fixture and Mullins’s great rival commented after winning the first two races at each Sunday fixture: “It was an unbelievable day and they’re all good this morning.”

Davy Russell missed out on Saturday’s bonanza as he was stood down with a sprained wrist after an early fall at Navan. He bounced back by riding Elliott’s two Punchestown winners, Top Bandit and Party Central.

The weekend note continued when 7-4 favourite Glenquin Castle stretched his winning streak to seven races in a row in the handicap chase. Owner JP McManus had earlier struck with another favourite, Gain De Cause, in a handicap hurdle.

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