Willie Mullins threatening his own Punchestown record after another bumper day
299-1 five-timer puts trainer on 13 wins as Klassical Dream and Energumene strike
Patrick Mullins (left) and Klassical Dream celebrate winning the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers’ Hurdle with groom Eilish Byrne during day three of the Punchestown Festival. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
After an ‘in and out’ Cheltenham Willie Mullins is in hot pursuit of a record-breaking Punchestown festival with his tally for the week at 13 winners and two days remaining.
On Thursday Mullins equalled Tuesday’s haul of five consecutive victories – at odds of 299–1 – and dominated the Grade One contests with a one-two in both of them.
Klassical Dream overcame a 487-day absence to land a gamble in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers’ Hurdle and Energumene duly landed 2-5 odds in the Ryanair Novice Chase.
There were also victories for Capodanno–- a 100th Punchestown festival winner for owner JP McManus – and two other short-priced favourites, Gauloise and Dysart Dynamo.
All 13 winners to date this week have been for different owners.
Mullins, about to be crowned champion trainer for a 15th time, set the Punchestown standard three years ago with a record 18 winners.
He has 35 declarations for 13 races over Friday and Saturday.
Mullins’s singular standards meant he described a six-winner haul at Cheltenham last month as an “in and out sort of week” despite ending up with the leading trainer award.
On home ground, however, the Mullins team has its eye in with a vengeance.
Paul Townend all but assured himself of the jockey’s championship with both of his rides winning, including an armchair spin on Energumene.
Despite minor errors at the final two fences Energumene was 16 lengths too good for his stable companion Janidil and usurped his senior stablemate, Chacun Pour Soi, as second favourite to Shishkin in some ante-post lists for next year’s Champion Chase.
“He was class. To get that feeling over two miles in chases twice in one week is like Christmas coming round,” Townend said.
“He’s entitled to go and take everything on and they [Energumene and Shishkin] are going to meet at some stage – it’ll be some spectacle!” he added before also scoring on Gauloise.
It put him Townend eight winners clear of Rachael Blackmore (99-91) and with two declared rides left to hit a century for the season.
Patrick Mullins is assured of a 13th amateur rider’s crown on the back of Klassical Dream making light of a long absence in the €250,000 feature.
Mullins Jnr also scored on Dysart Dynamo in the bumper and is four clear of rival Jamie Codd (49-45).
Klassical Dream was heavily backed down to 5-1 and the 2019 Supreme winner was helped by a rank display from the Cheltenham Stayers’ winner Flooring Porter.
The 100-30 favourite all but bolted after one false start, was led in at the back of the field at the ‘off’ and gave jockey Jonathan Moore a nightmare spin, noticeably hanging through the race before being pulled up when tailed off in the straight.
Klassical Dream, however, travelled stylishly throughout and was ultimately nine lengths too good for James Du Berlais.
“Patrick was quietly confident all week and I was hoping for his sake he was right,” Mullins said.
“He could stay hurdling or go novice chase. Looking at the size of him, anyone would love to ride him down to a fence because he has a really good method of jumping.
“Staying hurdling is very hard on horses and I’d rather go chasing and if it doesn’t work out he could always come back,” added the trainer who didn’t rule the horse out from a tilt at the French Champion Hurdle in June.
Capodanno outclassed his handicap hurdle opposition to supply McManus with his landmark Punchestown moment.
McManus had earlier won with the English raider Sully D’oc Aa, a second cross-channel winner of the week, and a first winner in Ireland for trainer Anthony Honeyball.
There was drama in Ireland’s longest race, the La Touche over the banks, when three horses ran wide approaching a direction post after the 10th obstacle.
Keith Donoghue on the leader Call It Magic subsequently told a stewards’ enquiry that he had familiarised himself with the course layout but “had a lapse” and “momentarily decided to go outside the direction post before quickly correcting his mount on to the correct course.”
Codd on one of the second favourites, Alpha Des Obeaux, was on Call It Magic’s hindquarters and told the stewards he had insufficient time to alter course and ran out.
Ben Harvey on another 7-2 shot, Some Neck, told the stewards he had realised he was going wrong and corrected his mount but lost ground doing so.
The stewards accepted their explanations and took no further action.
The eventful contest eventually saw the 33-1 outsider Singing Banjo complete a notable double after landing the Ladies’ Cup over the banks on Tuesday.
It was a third success of the week for trainer Philip Rothwell who pointed to the winner’s love of the banks challenge.
“We ran him in a few hunters’ chases to have him as fit as we could today and he was so outclassed by a lot of these horses in Fairyhouse a few weeks ago.
“When he goes out there he just latches on to the bridle and he loves it. He’s so small, nimble and fast over these fences. He’s very good at it,” he said.