Treble for Willie Mullins sees trainers' championship gap close to €112,000

Treble for Willie Mullins sees trainers' championship gap close to €112,000
Bellshill ridden by David Mullins jumps the last ahead of Djakadam ridden by Patrick Mullins to win the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Bellshill saw off stable companion Djakadam to claim top honours in the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup.

Willie Mullins saddled four of the 12 runners in a bid to win the race for a fourth time and it was Djakadam, ridden by the champion trainer's son, Patrick, who led his rivals a merry dance for much of the extended three-mile journey.

Bellshill, who finished a weary fifth in the Irish Grand National just over three weeks ago, tracked him into the straight and got the better of a thrilling duel after the final fence to win the day.

Road To Respect, the 7-2 favourite, passed the post in third.

Next Destination was made to pull out all the stops before claiming a thrilling victory in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old won his first three starts over hurdles, including a Grade One success at Naas, before finishing third behind Samcro in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at last month's Cheltenham Festival.

Stepping up to three miles for the first time, he was the 5-4 favourite to rediscover the winning trail in the hands of Paul Townend and travelled strongly for much of the way.

Just when it looked as though victory was assured, Gordon Elliott's Delta Work lunged late, but Next Destination held him off by a neck.

Colin Tizzard's British challenger Kilbricken Storm, winner of the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, was the same distance away in third.

For Townend the victory provided Grade One redemption following his costly error aboard Al Boum Photo in Tuesday's Growise Champion Novice Chase, which resulted in a 21-day ban for the rider.

"He was tough and he had to pull out all the stops there. It rode a solid race," said Townend.

"Yesterday is yesterday and I'll put it behind me now. I have a good man behind me."

Earlier, Townend was delighted to be back in the news for the right reasons after steering Pravalaguna to success in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle at Punchestown.

The former Irish champion jockey endured an afternoon to forget on Tuesday when his dramatic final-fence manoeuvre aboard likely winner Al Boum Photo in the Growise Champion Chase led to him picking up a 21-day suspension for dangerous riding.

Townend, who was also ordered to forfeit his riding fee, later revealed he thought he had to bypass the obstacle and in doing so took out the Colin Tizzard-trained, Robbie Power-ridden Finian's Oscar as he steered his mount across the track.

Making his first appearance in the saddle since, Townend rode a cool race aboard the Willie Mullins-trained 11-4 chance Pravalaguna and she ultimately eased to a comfortable eight-length success over Not Many Left.

Townend said: "That takes a bit of weight off my shoulders.

"I just want to put yesterday behind me now and move forward. I have a job to do, that was the mentality I came with today.

"I have a lot of good people behind me and that means a lot in this game."

In the first race, Prince Garyantle ran his rivals into the ground with a game all-the-way performance to cause a 25-1 upset in the Adare Manor Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle at Punchestown.

Adam Short had no stamina concerns on the Matthew Smith-trained eight-year-old, who kept up the gallop and his advantage over the opposition.

Prince Garyantle came home virtually unchallenged by eight and a half lengths from Sophie Leech's British raider Man Of Plenty. Killaro Boy, the gamble of the race, was a further four and a half lengths away in third and Nobody Home was fourth.

- PA

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