Girls steal the show as star mares shine on Punchestown Ladies' Day

Two mares fittingly lit up Ladies' Day at the Punchestown Festival as Vroum Vroum Mag and Jer's Girl landed Grade One prizes against the boys.

There was no denying Willie Mullins in the Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle, despite being shorn of the talents of Faugheen, Annie Power and Arctic Fire for the race.

Vroum Vroum Mag, who despite winning at Cheltenham over hurdles has spent the best part of her career since joining Mullins over fences, showed tremendous qualities in seeing off Identity Thief.

Ruby Walsh made it a real test, taking up the running early, and she won by a length and a quarter as the 4-6 favourite.

Walsh said: "It just shows the strength in depth we are lucky enough to have.

"At the start of the year Nichols Canyon, Arctic Fire and Faugheen looked our main ones and we've ended up winning the Champion Hurdle with Annie Power and here with Vroum Vroum Mag."

Jockey Ruby Walsh with trainer Willie Mullins (right) after winning the Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle onboard Vroum Vroum Mag during day four of the Punchestown Festival. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Jockey Ruby Walsh with trainer Willie Mullins (right) after winning the Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle onboard Vroum Vroum Mag during day four of the Punchestown Festival. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Mullins said: "She did a spectacular piece of work before Cheltenham and we were left wondering, 'Did we supplement the right mare for the Champion Hurdle?'

"She can go any road now. She's good enough to run in the Champion Hurdle races and she's good enough to run over fences at any level."

Jer's Girl was bought by JP McManus days before she landed a Grade One at Fairyhouse against her own sex and while she was in receipt of all the allowances in the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle, it still required a big leap forward.

Handled expertly by Gavin Cromwell, Barry Geraghty oozed confidence throughout as his partner pulled 10 lengths clear of a staying-on O O Seven.

Cromwell said: "She was very good and Barry said she loved the ground.

Trainer Gavin Cromwell congratulates Barry Geraghty and Jer's Girl after winning the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. Picture: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE
Trainer Gavin Cromwell congratulates Barry Geraghty and Jer's Girl after winning the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. Picture: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE

"I was certain she had improved from Fairyhouse. She had strengthened and come in her coat.

"It was a bit of a step into the unknown against the geldings, even though she was getting the weight allowances, but she's all heart."

The Mullins-trained Avant Tout (11-2) defied joint-top weight in the EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase for Paul Townend.

"That was a good performance for a novice to carry top weight in a handicap," said Mullins.

"It possibly looked a Galway Plate performance, to me, and we might aim him at that now."

Mullins and Townend were also on the mark with Irish newcomer Koshari (7-4) in the Star Best For Racing Coverage Novice Hurdle.

The trainer said: "He's not four until the end of May. He'll probably stay hurdling next season rather than go chasing."

Rising star Jack Kennedy secured a second winner of the Festival as Gordon Elliott's Definite Ruby (8-1) prevailed in a thrilling finish to the Hanlon Concrete EBF Glencarraig Lady Mares Handicap Chase.

Kennedy said: "I can't believe I'm going to be champion conditional, and I'd like to thank all the owners and trainers I've ridden for."

Thirteen-year-old Shin A Vee (2-1 favourite) landed back-to-back runnings of the KFM Hunters Chase at Punchestown, while the McManus silks were also carried to victory when 7-2 chance No Comment, trained by Philip Hobbs, won the Racing FX Flat Race in the trusty hands of Jamie Codd.

Codd said: "The better ground helped. He has a lovely attitude and settled brilliantly."

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