Wicklow Brave gave Willie Mullins a magnificent seventh victory at the Festival when springing a 25-1 surprise in the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Paul Townend, riding his third winner during the four days, swept through the field to lead before the final flight as he put the race to bed in a matter of strides, turning one of the most competitive handicaps of the season into a procession as he won unchallenged by eight lengths.
Irish raiders dominated as Eddie Harty’s Sort It Out was second, with Tony Martin’s Quick Jack a length and a quarter back in third. Max Dynamite and Analifet, both trained by Mullins, were fourth and fifth.
Townend said: “I’ve always kept a bit of faith in this horse, because he has loads of ability.
“Things didn’t go right for him last week (pulled up in Imperial Cup at Sandown). Just 12 months ago he ran a cracker in the Supreme, disappointed a couple of times and was then forgotten about.
“Willie is a genius of a man to turn him round like this, I got there three furlongs too soon, but he handled the ground better than I thought.
“I would have settled for just one winner, so three is magic.”
Mullins said: “He just didn’t get away on terms in his last two runs, so all the other horses were going up the weights and he stayed where he was.
“His work at home was good, but he missed the break on his last two runs.
“I gave Paul one instruction – get him away and see what he had.”
Mullins, equalling Nicky Henderson's seven winners at a Festival, said: "I guess he was in the last four passing the stands first time and he just came wide the whole way and kept out of trouble.
“He had lots of petrol in the tank, came over to the near rail and just had to jump the last.
“He’s not like that at home (awkward at the start). They were standing starts (at Newbury and Sandown) and that didn’t suit him. This was a walking start and he had no problem.
“Today was a normal start and he jumped away fine.”