Punchestown: Brennan warms up for Cue Card ride in style
Galway jockey guides 9-1 shot God’s Own to shock Grade One victory over Vautour
Paddy Brennan celebrates winning The BoyleSports Champion Chase on God’s Own at Punchestown. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Galway-born jockey Paddy Brennan warmed up for his ride on the hot favourite Cue Card in Wednesday’s feature with a first Grade One success in Ireland on board God’s Own at the opening of this year’s Punchestown festival.
The 9-1 English-trained winner was two lengths too good for the odds-on favourite Vautour in the Boylesports Champion Chase on a card that proved a rare anti-climax for Willie Mullins.
As well as Vautour, the festival’s dominant figure for the last decade had another beaten odds-on Grade One favourite in Yorkhill, and Outlander failed to overhaul the dramatic winner, Zabana, in the other Grade One contest.
However Mullins’s hope, Cilaos Emery, did land the concluding bumper, one of just two favourites to score.
Both Vautour and Yorkhill had been to Aintree in between Cheltenham and this week’s festival as part of Mullins’s attempt to land the British trainer’s title.
Tuesday’s results are likely to provoke further speculation about a busy Spring campaign possibly catching up with some of the leading lights in jump racing’s most powerful team although Mullins was not inclined towards generalisations.
However Vautour’s owner, Rich Ricci, conceded: “It could be a long week,” and added: “It was probably one race too many for Vautour.
“He looked flat to me, never had a good cut at his fences and Ruby [Walsh] said he never made any ground in the air. But we had to go for the trainer’s championship. And don’t forget God’s Own has been to Cheltenham and Aintree too.”
It was God’s Own who took advantage of Vautour’s fall to win at Liverpool and he pounced on the front-running Special Tiara before the final fence, having enough in hand to hold Vautour’s rallying effort.
“It was some performance. We went really hard from the start. The first mile I had no control and I just let him go. He was awesome today,” said Brennan (35) originally from Ardrahan, who estimated he rode eight winners on the flat in Ireland before continuing his career in Britain.
“The season ended in England on Saturday but I knew my season wasn’t over. This is a big week and hopefully Cue Card can win. The ground is beautiful, like a carpet.”
It was no magic carpet for punters however with three odds-on favourites beaten, and a run of double-digit priced winners including the 16-1 Don’t Touch It in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle.
However on a chilly evening, it was Zabana’s victory in the Growise Champion Novice Chase that warmed many hearts among the 19,825 strong crowd.
Zabana controversially unseated jockey Davy Russell at Cheltenham and the Andy Lynch trained star had to overcome potential disaster this time from a loose horse who swerved in front of the field more than once, most dramatically turning out of the back straight.
“I thought ‘here we go again,” said an emotional Lynch who trains just a dozen horses in Co Meath. “My heart sank at Cheltenham. And you’d love the chance to do it there. But this is nearly as good,” Lynch said. “He sulked a bit after Cheltenham but in the last three weeks he’d been really good. We’ll let him off now and make a man of him for next year!”