On a day of drama, Supasundae’s win is cruelly overlooked
Jessica Harrington’s 7-1 winner interrupted ongoing Willie Mullins-Gordon Elliott saga
Antey ridden by Katie Walsh (second right, green cap) gets up to win the Novice Hurdle during day four of the Punchestown Festival 2018 in Co Kildare. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Rarely, if ever, can a Grade One have been won in such dramatic style and wind up so overlooked, but that was Supasundae’s unworthy fate after the Punchestown festival’s day four feature.
That his success interrupted a week dominated by the Willie Mullins-Gordon Elliott saga eventually wound up being a minor element.
Instead, as the 7-1 shot went past the line ahead of Wicklow Brave, most eyes were anxiously scanning the third last flight where the odds-on favourite Samcro and his market rival Melon had both taken spectacular falls.
No sooner had everyone digested that everyone was fit to fight another day came news that Katie Walsh won’t have any more race-riding days at all after her fairytale career bow on Antey.
It seems to be Supasundae’s destiny to play such second fiddle. He has largely operated in the shadow of his Gold Cup-winning stable companion Sizing John. Even his greatest success up to now – February’s Irish Champion Hurdle – saw at least as much focus on the runner-up, Faugheen.
But, after defeats at Cheltenham and Aintree, he is now a double champion hurdle winner at two miles, something that had jockey Robbie Power pondering what might have been.
“When you look back on it, myself and Jessie [Harrington] probably got it wrong at Cheltenham and maybe he should have run in the Champion Hurdle,” he said.
‘Flat to the board’
“I felt going to the third last that Melon was definitely flat to the board and I was starting to close in on Samcro. Maybe he was flat out too and maybe that’s why he fell.
“For a horse who couldn’t jump when we got him he has got very, very good at it and his jumping kept him in it,” Power added.
It was a welcome Grade One for Harrington at her local track and she said: “I don’t know whether he got lucky or what. He was flat to the boards. We’ve been getting him to relax and suddenly Robert is saying to him, ‘come on, you have to go faster.’
“He was upside the other two when they fell and he would have stayed on. He’s probably as good over two miles as three.”
If there was a palpable sense of anticlimax about Samcro’s exit, there was also the tantalising memory of how well he’d travelled and jumped prior to that.
“I couldn’t have been happier with how he was travelling. He looked like he was loving it. He’s something to look forward to next year,” Elliott said.
“I would love to train Samcro for the Champion Hurdle but we’ll sit down and have a chat after the horse has had a summer holiday.
“The only thing I know is I’m very lucky to have him. He’s a very good horse. He looked like he was only in second gear and Jack [Kennedy] said it felt like he was in second gear,” he added.
The very next race provided consolation to the man beaten to the championship for a second year running as the 16-1 shot Dortmund Park landed the Profile Systems Novice Hurdle.
Even that had drama in behind as Debuchet’s second-last flight fall brought both Scarpeta and Getabird to a halt.
The concluding bumper was minus the newly retired Katie Walsh, but it wasn’t without another thrilling finish as Lone Wolf powered home to win in the dying strides under Derek O’Connor. The jockey afterwards got a three-day ban for his use of the whip.
There was the first cross-channel success of the week when Irish-born but Somerset-based trainer Rose Loxton saddled Caid Du Berlais to win the Champion Hunters Chase.
Caid Du Berlais had 21 lengths in hand of Timewaitsfornone at the line with the veteran On The Fringe back in third.
On Saturday’s season finale Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud will once again be crowned champion owner with 149 winners helping to generate almost €4.3 million in total prizemoney for the Ryanair boss.
Davy Russell is champion jockey for the third time with 119 winners to date while Patrick Mullins is champion amateur once again after 56 victories. Donie McInerney is top conditional (33 winners) and Lisa O’Neill is the leading lady jockey (20).