Champion trainer Willie Mullins, currently in France pursuing potential stars of the future, dominated last night’s action in Punchestown, completing a treble with Raptor, Letherbelucky and Passage Vendome.
Beaten a nose on his last visit to Punchestown, the Ruby Walsh-ridden Raptor justified favouritism in the €10 Admission Chase, apparently having the measure of chief rival Slieveardagh when Barry Geraghty’s mount crashed at the final fence.
Patrick Mullins, representing his father, commented: “The extra two furlongs probably helped him tonight. He seemed to like that ground and will stay in all summer. He’ll go to all the Festivals, particularly Galway and Listowel, and will run over two and a half miles or less.”
Successful on her debut in a Wexford bumper, Letherbelucky made a winning start over hurdles when justifying odds-on favouritism in the jogforjockeys.ie Mares Maiden Hurdle, proving seven lengths too strong for Cuteasafox and giving Ruby Walsh the second leg of a double.
Mullins Jnr said: “She’d probably be better over further. She likes that ground and we’ll try to win another couple of hurdles with her. She might run in a couple of those amateur maidens on the flat, over a mile and six, or two miles.”
Meanwhile, the winning rider commented: “She was a bit green but warmed to the task and did it well.”
Patrick Mullins was full of praise for his first cousin Emmet after he delivered the final leg of the stable treble, as Passage Vendome, runner-up in similar events in Tramore and Ballinrobe in his most recent outings, captured the www.irishracehorseowners.com Maiden Hurdle.
A drifter from 11/8 to 2/1 in the face of a major gamble on the Tony Mullins-trained Buy Back Bob (9/2 to 2/1), Passage Vendome stayed on stoutly to keep his fellow joint-favourite at bay by a length and a half.
“He seems a stronger horse this year and his jumping has improved. He’s a tough customer,” said Patrick Mullins, “Emmet gave him a great ride — he grabbed the bull by the horns and didn’t hang around. He’s a summer horse and will go for a novice somewhere.”
Another Mullins was in the winner’s enclosure after the bumper, in which Elsie, trained by Tom Mullins, made amends for her odds-on mishap in Killarney, when she ran out.
Ridden by Colin Motherway, Elsie came from off the pace and challenged on the inside early in the straight before asserting and stretching clear to triumph by seven and a half lengths.
The winning trainer explained: “She was unfortunate in Killarney. But we used a different bit on her today and she was easier handled. She showed me today what she has and, with luck, she might be black-type mare.
“She’s a good ground filly and will definitely go hurdling before the ground goes soft again. So she’ll probably go jumping straight away.”
The Oliver McKiernan-trained Whodoyouthink registered his first win over fences when making all under Mick Darcy to land the Follow Punchestown On Facebook Chase in convincing style
Jumping soundly, the seven-year-old set a strong pace and had his rivals, notably odds-on favourite Loosen My Load (dropped away to finish a distant fourth) in trouble a long way from home and came home seventeen lengths clear of Askanna.
After complimenting Punchestown’s groundstaff on the conditions of the track, McKiernan stated: “He appears to be a better horse over fences than hurdles. But we have to mix it with him hurdles and fences, to keep him focused. I decided not to use cheekpieces today, to see how he’d travel on that better ground. I’m not really sure if he needs them.”
He added, “We might keep him going for the summer, but he won’t run on quick ground.”
He’s Our Man, which gave local trainer Ross O’Sullivan his first training success in Limerick earlier this month, followed-up in the Punchestown Handicap Hurdle winning more easily than winning margin of a length and three-quarters might suggest.
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