Min makes impressive Irish debut in Punchestown

Willie Mullins quipped: “The rumours were true” after the well-touted Min made an impressive Irish debut in the Festival Hospitality On Sale Maiden Hurdle in Punchestown yesterday.
Min makes impressive Irish debut in Punchestown

The French import, in the familiar Ricci colours, was allowed stride into the lead by Ruby Walsh before the fifth flight and stretched clear of market rival Double Island after the second last to triumph, hard held, by fourteen lengths from Gurteen, providing the champion trainer with the final leg of a treble and Walsh’s second winner of the afternoon.

Bookmakers reacted by cutting Min for the Supreme Novices Hurdle, with both Paddy Power (from 12) and Boylesports (from 9) making him their 6/1 favourite.

“He has stamina and plenty of gears,” stated Mullins. “That was two and a quarter miles and I see no problem coming back to two miles and would have no fear going two and a half. He took off with Ruby at half-way and jumped very, very well.”

When asked about plans for the four-year-old, Mullins responded: “We’ll go gradually and will look for something in the New Year,” before hinting that Min might return to Punchestown for the Grade 2 ‘Moscow Flyer’ in January, a race he has won with Vautour and Douvan in the last two seasons.

Mullins and Walsh were also successful with Thomas Hobson, formerly a classy flat performer for John Gosden, which made all and possessed too many gears for marginal favourite Jetstream Jack in the Buy Your 2016 Annual Membership Hurdle, scoring by two and three-quarter lengths.

“His jumping is improving and can improve again,” said the winning trainer. “He’ll be better on better ground and, if he gets another few pounds for this, he’ll find it hard over hurdles so we could be going back to the flat with him.”

The Mullins treble had been initiated when the Gigginstown-owned Net D’Ecosse, a second fence faller on his chasing bow in Thurles, landed the opening beginners’ event in a three-way photo-finish at the expense of the J P McManus-owned pair Peoples Park and Blazer.

The winner jumped soundly, apart from being deliberate at the last, giving the runner-up an opportunity. Where it mattered, Bryan Cooper’s mount prevailed by a nose and a head. Mullins said: “I told Bryan to get him round safely after what happened in Thurles. he jumped well, but took too much time at the last. We’ll look for something for him in the New Year. Both the winner and third will be going out in trip.”

Jimmy Mangan saddled first and second home in the Buy Your Tickets Online Handicap Chase as Adrian Heskin brought Winter Magic to master gallant, front-running top-weight Kilcrea (Davy Russell) at the final fence before forging clear to triumph by four lengths.

“He’s not a bad horse and the cheekpieces were a big help – he travelled well with them,” stated Mangan. “He’s from a great old family. They’re tough and get better with age. He might go for the Thyestes, if he gets in.”

The Racing Again At Punchestown On New Year’s Eve Hunters Chase also went to County Cork as Nevskij, having his first run in more than a year (due to leg trouble), made all under Eoin O’Brien to triumph for the O’Flynn family from Ballyclough, outside Mallow.

The ten-year-old, ridden by Eoin O’Brien, made all and jumped fluently, with the exception of the final fence, holding favourite Quiet Account by two and quarter lengths and prompting his trainer Paul O’Flynn to comment: “I’m delighted to have him back after a year out. He’s good horse at this level and, if he’s okay, he might go for the hunter chase at Down Royal over Christmas. Eoin said he knew he was wrong at the last and left him alone, but the horse was cute.”

The David Mullins-ridden The Brock Inn, a home-bred Stowaway filly, provided owner-trainer John Nicholson with success in the mares maiden hurdle, proving too strong for Snaidhm.

“I knew she’d go on the ground – she worked on it the other morning and never worked as well,” said Nicholson.

“She’ll go to Leopardstown, for either the mares race or the novice handicap.”

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