Jezki’s meritorious defeat of old adversary Hurricane Fly in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle, thrilling in its execution, proved a temporary interruption to the Willie Mullins Punchestown Show as the champion trainer completed a near 3,274-1 five-timer on the undercard on day three of the festival.
A different trip and different demands but, essentially, the same result as the two former Champion Hurdlers shook off the attention of their rivals before getting down and dirty to produce an exhilarating finish to the three-mile feature.
And, for the third time in nine meetings, it was Jezki who came out on top, the Jessica Harrington-trained gelding giving further credence to the assertion he comes alive when the sun is on his back.
Though keen through the race, the seven-year-old jumped with greater fluency and, as the race reached its climax, it was evident the younger legs of Jezki were travelling best.
Jockey Mark Walsh asked his mount to quicken away approaching the final flight, and the 5-2 chance stayed on strongly to see off the dogged challenge of Hurricane Fly by a length and three quarters.
“He’s been amazing for me,” said Harrington. “Basically, he’s very straightforward but he does like spring in the air, and when he gets a bit of sun on his back and good ground he’s definitely a different horse.”
Of the reason to take the step up to three miles, Harrington added: “We’d been beaten by Faugheen, and we’d been beaten by Hurricane Fly all year, until Aintree, but the great thing is to try something new. All the family stay very well.
“Things just didn’t go right in the Champion Hurdle – it was run at a slow pace, Ruby dictated it, and he probably ran a bit keen. AP (McCoy) said ‘if I had ridden him to be second, he’d have been second, but I went to try and win the race and it didn’t work out’.
“But today is great. I was hoping he’d get home because he was being pretty free and tanking with Mark, but he jumped brilliantly, lasted every inch of the way, and three miles doesn’t seem to be any problem to him.
“Up until the last two races, you’d have said he had a disappointing season, but he’s ended up winning two Grade 1s, so you can’t say that’s a bad season.”
As is its wont, the La Touche Cup, over the cross-country course, produced one of the finishes of the meeting, as veteran Uncle Junior got up in the dying strides to deny market leader Quantitativeeasing and, in the process, set the ball rolling for the Mullins five-timer.
After four miles, the two galloped to the final obstacle – a regulation fence – together. Nina Carberry got the better jump out of the favourite and looked to have gained the decisive advantage but 14-year-old Uncle Junior (6-1), under the guidance of Patrick Mullins, defied his advancing years to snatch a last-gasp victory.
Another Mullins – jockey Danny – has had a couple of weeks to remember, and he provided the second leg for his uncle as he guided Avant Tout (20-1) to victory in the Donohue Marquees Handicap Hurdle.
The third leg came courtesy of the Eddie O’Connell, Glanmire, owned Un De Sceaux’s all-the-way victory in the Ryanair Novice Chase – a success which gave the handler his sixth Grade 1 of the week.
The win lacked the exuberance of his scintillating display in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham and, indeed, there was a brief moment between the last two fences when the progressive Just Cameron threatened to put his nose in front.
But, Ruby Walsh, unfazed, shook him up, and the favourite moved clear to secure a 13th win in 14 outings.
“I’d be wary of running him on ground that fast again,” said a relieved Mullins. “I thought he wasn’t jumping half as well as at Cheltenham — I think he was just feeling the ground. That’s it for the season now. What more can he do?”
It was Paul Townend’s turn in the Orchid Transport Mares’ Novice Hurdle as he produced lightly raced four-year-old Whiteout (8-1) with a well-judged ride to beat stable companions Uranna and Lyrical Theatre.
Patrick Mullins’ confidence proved well-founded when he completed the five-timer aboard well-backed 5-4 favourite Yorkhill in the Kildare Post Flat Race. The Presenting gelding took over going well three furlongs out, and quickly moved clear to beat the promising Ok Corral by more than two lengths.
Mullins influence in the opener came from the saddle as David Mullins steered the hat-trick seeking Bog War to victory for trainer Liam Cusack. The progressive five-year-old, backed into 5-2, required all his exciting young jockey’s drive to get him up in the shadow of the post to deny A Sizing Network.
Jacksonslady, the apparent second string for owner JP McManus in the Three.ie Handicap Chase, ran out a gutsy winner for jockey Mark Walsh and trainer Philip Dempsey. Favourite Ned Buntline, carrying the same colours, loomed large racing to the second last, but found little as Jacksonslady responded to Walsh’s urgings to race home clear of Upazo.
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