Stunning Un De Sceaux takes down Douvan in Champion Chase
The Storyteller claims dramatic victory as Elliott fights back on day one at Punchestown
Draconien (R) jumps the last en route to victory in the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty
Un De Sceaux saw off stable companion Douvan to claim victory in the BoyleSports Champion Chase at Punchestown.
However, the admirable Un De Sceaux, ridden by the trainer’s son, Patrick, fenced fluently out in front and passed the post two and three-quarters of a length ahead of the odds-on market leader.
A Toi Phil finished third, but was another seven lengths adrift at the line.
Patrick Mullins said: “I’ve been dreaming about riding that horse. When I was told I was riding him I was like Charlie when he got the golden ticket off Willie Wonka!
“I schooled him yesterday and even schooling him was some buzz.
“It took him a while to warm up into the race. He didn’t jump or travel like he can and I was a little worried, but I think that was just the good ground.
“Once he’d warmed up I just let him at it and he runs horses into the ground.”
He added: “Realistically I didn’t think he was going to beat Douvan or Min on this ground over this trip, but he’s a horse that always runs well, so you can never count him out.”
The Storyteller (16-1) claimed victory in a dramatic renewal of the Growise Champion Novice Chase.
A field of 11 went to post for the three-mile Grade One, with title-chasing trainers Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott saddling three and five runners respectively.
Mullins looked in a strong position rounding the home turn, with Invitation Only and Al Boum Photo both in contention either side of Henry de Bromhead’s 2-1 favourite Monalee.
However, few could have envisaged what would happen next.
Monalee took a crashing fall two fences from home, badly hampering Invitation Only, who unshipped David Mullins.
That incident left Al Boum Photo in command before jockey Paul Townend tried to manoeuvre his mount across the track, and in doing so ended up taking both himself and Finian’s Oscar out of the race.
The Storyteller, who won a handicap at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, was left in front in the hands of Davy Russell and galloped on to lead home a one-two-three for Elliott, with Monbeg Notorious and Jury Duty finishing second and third respectively.
Draconien (25-1) got Willie Mullins off to a flying start at this year’s Festival after springing a surprise in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle.
The reigning champion trainer has significant ground to make up on rival Gordon Elliott in this year’s title race, but reduced the deficit in the first Grade One contest of the week.
Mullins fielded four of the 10 runners and it was his 11-10 favourite Getabird who cut out much of the running in the hands Paul Townend.
However, he was a spent force from the home turn and was first claimed by Colin Tizzard’s British challenger Vision Des Flos, before 25-1 shot Draconien came through under a confident Noel Fehily to claim victory by two and a quarter lengths.
Vision Des Flos was a clear second, with Elliott’s Mengli Khan best of the rest in third.
Just Wait And See gamely held off Blue Templar to win the Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase for the Ladies Perpetual Cup, the first race of the 2018 Festival.
Ridden by Billy Gleeson and trained by his father, John, the victorious 16-1 chance hit the front inside the final half a mile.
But Derek O’Connor conjured up a late rally from Blue Templar, having been under pressure from some way out, and only went down by a head in a thrilling finish.
John Gleeson said: “I only have a handful of horses to keep an interest in the game. This has given me the biggest buzz I’ve ever had in my life.”
Billy Gleeson said: “We’ve had the horse since he was four.
“He’s a real fun horse — a very clever jumper — and God knows how many fences he’s jumped in his life.”
Later True Self (12-1) showed a smart turn of foot under Rachael Blackmore to win the valuable Killashee Handicap Hurdle.
The Willie Mullins-trained mare shot clear turning into the straight and despite slowing up heading to the last, soon regained momentum to beat Joey Sasa.
Mullins’ title rival Elliott struck back as Commander Of Fleet dominated his rivals in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned point-to-point winner was a 5-1 shot for his rules debut and after being ridden prominently from the off by Barry O’Neill, he streaked clear in the home straight for a wide-margin victory.
Column Of Fire and Santana Plessis finished second and third respectively to give Elliott a one-two-three.
Elliott said “He’s a nice horse and a big thanks goes to Pat Doyle, who trained him to win a point-to-point.
“I’ve only had him from the week after he won his point-to-point. I haven’t galloped him, just cantered him away. Pat did all the hard work with him.
“He’ll be a nice horse with a summer’s grass.”