Quevega masterclass after Solwhit withdrawn

The clash so many had been looking forward to all week at Punchestown, Solwhit versus Quevega, in yesterday’s Grade 1 Ladbrokes’ World Series Hurdle, failed to materialise, after Solwhit was sensationally withdrawn at the start.

Quevega masterclass after Solwhit withdrawn

It soon became apparent that something was troubling Solwhit’s rider, Davy Russell, as he got down from his mount. It subsequently transpired that there was blood in the horse’s nostrils.

Reported Russell: “I wasn’t happy and had to get the vet and she wasn’t happy either.’’

It was desperately disappointing, although a majestic display on the part of Quevega was reasonable compensation.

She has long been regarded as the best mare seen since Dawn Run and only confirmed such thinking here, absolutely toying with the opposition.

Truth to tell, Quevega never left second gear, after dour stayer, Reve De Sivola, was asked to stride on with a circuit to cover by Daryl Jacob.

But Reve De Sivola was only in front on sufferance and approaching the home turn Quevega came there cantering, with Ruby Walsh sitting motionless.

Walsh hardly moved a muscle, as Quevega eased past heading to the final flight and soon stretched clear to score with any amount in hand.

Willie Mullins was adamant the extraordinary nine-year-old was in far better shape for this contest, compared to Cheltenham last month, where she won her fifth mares’ hurdle.

“It is very hard to get her ready for a first run at Cheltenham, I thought she looked big there, like a mare in foal,’’ said Mullins.

“She answered Ruby’s every call today and did what she had to do. She worked great last Saturday, did a fantastic bit of work, and that was the first time I thought I really had her race-fit.

“I don’t wish Solwhit was there. I am sorry for his connections, but by the grace of God it could have been us.

“We are not afraid to enter Quevega in two-mile championship races, she has a lot more speed than people think.

“We are lucky to have a horse like Hurricane Fly, but if we didn’t have him she could run in those races.

“I was nervous when she was going to the last, that she would fluff her lines, which she has done here before.

“We could possibly take her to France, I will talk to the owners and see how she comes out of the race.

“The plan next season will be the same, she will go to Cheltenham as a prep for here!’’

Walsh said: “Quevega is a brilliant mare, she travelled and jumped super. She is exceptionally placed and trained and has a great attitude.

“She is so accurate in her jumping, travels, is honest and is the real deal. She has now won this race four times, Solwhit didn’t run, but you can only beat what’s put in front of you and beat them she did.’’

Solwhit’s trainer, Charles Byrnes, said: ” He only had a scratch on his nose and scoped perfectly, but Davy did the right thing. We dodged a right one anyway in Quevega.’’

Walsh, who had a bad first two days, now had the wind to his back and then booted home Mullins’ Arvika Ligeonniere to land the other Grade 1 on the programme, the Ryanair Novice Chase, one of four winners he enjoyed for the day.

This was impressive by a horse that had fallen at Leopardstown and was pulled up at Cheltenham.

Going right-handed is clearly the key to him, however, and he travelled like a dream, bounded ahead before three out and then powered through the testing conditions to easily beat Oscars Well.

Commented Mullins: “Soft ground and going right-handed is the key to him. There are some nice prizes over two-miles here at home and I’d say he will be staying here. I’d imagine that’s it for the season.’’

Walsh got off the mark for the week when Mullins’ Twinlight shrugged off top weight in the Bibby Financial Services Handicap Chase.

He made a lot of the running, but looked cooked when headed at the second last by Far Away So Close.

Twinlight fought back, however, and kept finding to head Far Away So Close after the final fence, as Barneys Honours came from well off the pace to claim a fast- finishing third.

“That was a fair display, I think we could now have a hurdles mark to exploit’’, remarked Mullins.

Walsh and Mullins then combined for their fourth winner when Upsie got the best of a tough battle with stable companion, Twigline, in the Orchid Transport Mares’ Novice Hurdle.

Upsie overcame some indifferent jumping to outbattle a game Twigline from the back of the final flight.

Remarked Mullins: “We will have to brush up her jumping a little, I don’t know if we will keep going with her, but she should have a good future.’’

Walsh’s burst of winners has thrown the jockeys’ championship back into the melting pot. It looked all over bar the shouting for Davy Russell, but the gap is now down to five, 102-97, with two days to go and Walsh having a number of high profile rides on his agenda.

Mullins capped an unbelievable day in the Bumper when his son, Patrick, made it winner number five aboard the hugely impressive Turnandgo.

“This is magic, he is a serious horse’’, said Mullins senior. “He will come back over hurdles next season, has size, scope and jumps well.’’

Mullins previously trained five of the six winners at Punchestown in January of 2011, but this was his first five-timer at the festival. His tally for the week now stands at seven.

In the opening Stephens Green Hibernian Club Hurdle Walsh, who had been having a horror show of a meeting, was out of luck when his well-backed favourite, Marito, managed to find one too good for him in the shape of Rye Martini, partnered by Russell.

Ridden from behind, Marito was lucky to survive a mistake at the fifth and then blundered at the next as well.

He worked back into the contest, but getting in tight to the second last was no help either. In the meantime Russell was making the best of his way home on the winner.

Marito tried valiantly to close him down, but was still two lengths adrift at the line.

Rye Martini’s trainer, Colm Murphy, said: “It is fantastic to win a race here. I’d imagine he will be put away now and come back over fences.’’ The six-year-old landed a minor touch, from 16-1 to 11’s.

Big Shu followed his Cheltenham festival success with a terrific display to land the Avon Ri Corporate And Leisure Resort Chase over four miles and a furlong, the longest race run in Ireland.

Barry Cash sent him on a fair way from home and, though Big Shu tired somewhat in the closing stages, had enough left to hold Another Jewel.

The attendance was 16,116, as against 15,527 last year.

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