As one would expect of any National Hunt meeting in Punchestown, there was real class on show and Colreevy provided the lion’s share of that quality when making a winning debut over fences in the Ballymore Group Rated Novice Chase.
The Willie Mullins-trained mare spent two seasons in bumpers, winning three times, including one at Grade One level. She spent last term over hurdles, winning just once, but on today’s evidence she could really blossom in her new discipline.
The seven-year-old was almost foot-perfect all the way, which was all the more impressive for the fact she was never left alone up front. However, once Paul Townend asked her to go about her business, she raced right away to win by a huge margin. While still a novice, she is as short as 12-1 for the new Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Mullins and Townend doubled up with Blue Lord, who made a winning start for the stable in the Hub At Ballymore Maiden Hurdle.
Julies Stowaway was sent off favourite for this one and the experienced sort was in front over the final flight. However, the eventual winner, who won a two-mile Flat maiden in France, picked up strongly to win by half a length.
The day’s action kicked off with a runaway success for Neverushacon in the Ballymore Group Risk Of Thunder Chase.
Runner-up in the race last year, on his banks debut, he returned in great fettle and, bar a bad jump at the 24th obstacle, there were no concerns for connections.
Paddy Kennedy let him quicken away late to secure a wide-margin win over last year’s third, Ballyboker Bridge.
Kate Harrington, daughter of winning trainer Jessica, said: “He seems to absolutely love the banks here at Punchestown. He has been second and won twice now. He had gone very high over fences and hurdles, so we decided last year to give him a go and he took to it like a duck to water.
“We were happy enough (coming here). Paddy said he took two blows on the way around, so there’s plenty more improvement in him. We had done as much as we could at home, we had been to the Curragh a few times and had a school here on Saturday.”
Screaming Colours, trained by William Durkan, was one of the outsiders in the Thatch At Ballymore Handicap Chase but he won in great style for jockey Danny Hand.
Alexei Vronsky put his jumping experience to best use in the Ballymore Group 3YO Maiden Hurdle.
Jody McGarvey’s mount, having his third run over timber, was never far off the pace, took over two out and stayed on well to deny the heavily backed Loved Out, whose jumping proved costly.
Winning trainer Pádraig Roche said: “He’s a fine-looking horse, as you’d imagine he would be as Michael (O’Callaghan, former owner and trainer) buys fine types.
“He had to do it the hard way, but we were keen that it wouldn’t turn in to a real sprint today. We’ll mix it over hurdles and on the Flat, though I think we’ll wait for next summer before we go back on the Flat with him.”
The biggest upset of the day came in the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle, which was won by 80-1 chance Born Patriot. One of just two newcomers in the 13-runner race, Peter Fahey’s four-year-old jumped well for Kevin Sexton and picked up strongly in the final 50 yards to touch off favourite All About Joe, who touched 1.01 in running.
Fahey said: “His home work is very good, but he does want a trip and we never considered going for a bumper with him. Every time we worked him, he was the one horse that was galloping out at the finish. He showed that today, as he really stayed at it. I was thrilled with him. Kevin said he wouldn’t step him up in trip just yet, so we’ll stick to two and a half miles for now.”
The meeting closed on a better note for punters as 11-8 chance Deilginis made a winning return in the Ballymore Kildare Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.
Never worse than second place, JJ Slevin sent her on turning for home and, despite idling a little in the closing stages, Joseph O’Brien’s progressive mare raced home comfortably clear of Regina Dracones.