Lucky 13 as Mullins sets new Punchestown record

Willie Mullins topped his own record as two Grade One victories on the final day helped him take his Punchestown Festival tally to 13 winners for the week.

Mullins sent out 12 winners in both 2009 and 2010 but successes for Glens Melody and Diakali in top-level contests, as well as The Paparrazi Kid in a lesser heat saw him better his own record.

Jockey Paul Townend finally opened his account for the week as Glens Melody (7-2) saw off better-fancied stablemate Tarla amongst others in the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association Fillies Scheme European Breeders Fund Mares Hurdle.

Mullins said: “That’s a nice surprise. I thought she looked great in the parade ring and she seems to be stronger since her last run in Fairyhouse. She showed a turn of foot there today which I didn’t think she had.

“I’m not sure on plans for the future but I very much doubt she’ll go chasing. She’s a very valuable broodmare prospect.

“The owners have a nice a breeding operation and she will be a great addition to their paddocks.”

Diakali took full advantage of the absence of Our Conor in the AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, having seen the rear end of Dessie Hughes’ Triumph Hurdle winner the last twice.

Mullins’ grey made every yard of the running in the hands of Walsh, with Blood Cotil finishing a two-length second while stablemates Dogora and Djakadam were a long way back in third and fourth.

Mullins said: “He’s a horse who can be a bit hard on himself but he jumped well today.

“We’ve a lot more work to do at home to teach him to settle, but the hood certainly helped today.

“He’s very keen but I think there’s a lot more to come if we can get him to settle properly.”

The Paparazzi Kid (7-1) came from way back to win the Setanta Sports Handicap Hurdle to set the seal on a memorable week for Mullins.

Sizing Australia (12-1) denied Enda Bolger’s Zest For Life a second win of the week by just a short head in the Irish Field Chase.

“We’ve been hitting the crossbar quite a bit all week so I’m delighted,” said winning trainer Henry De Bromhead.

“I’m so pleased for the old boy because he’s a warrior, he won at Cheltenham a few years ago.”

Trainer Richard Lee went close earlier in the week with Gassin Golf but his enterprising spirit paid off when Grey Gold won the Madra Irish Dog Food Novice Chase.

Lee said: “We nearly had a winner here on Wednesday and if he had jumped the last better, I thought he’d have won too.

“We came here for the soft ground and he loves it. He’s very inexperienced and it’s only his third run over fences, but I’m proud of the way he jumped and is a credit to my team at home.”

Meanwhile Barry Connell is eyeing a tilt at the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton for Mount Benbulben following his Punchestown Festival triumph.

Gordon Elliott’s eight-year-old has always had plenty of talent, but jumping issues have checked his progress during his first season over fences.

However, he got his act together to run out a hugely impressive 22-length winner of the Grade One Growise Champion Novice Chase and his owner is hopeful he can go onto secure more top-level prizes, with Kempton’s Boxing Day highlight very much on the radar.

Connell said: “He’d done plenty of schooling and I think the key is to get him into a rhythm. He jumped very well the other day, I don’t think he made a mistake.

“The step up to three miles probably helped him as well and he’s always been a horse with a lot of potential. He just never got to show it in his early races over fences.

“I think he’s definitely better going right-handed so we’ll stick to going that way round.

“He went up 13lb the other day, which leaves him on 160 and I think that makes him the highest-rated novice chaser in Ireland.

“You would like to think he could develop into a King George horse and there are plenty of other races going right-handed for him early in the season.

“There is the race in Down Royal (Jnwine.com Champion Chase) and there is also a conditions race at Ascot.

“At the end of next season, you could see him hopefully running in the Punchestown Gold Cup. Sir Des Champs won the novice race Mount Benbulben won last year before winning this year’s Gold Cup.

“He handles soft ground, he stays, he has class and a high cruising speed.

“I hope there’s a lot to look forward to.”

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