Off the track for 714 days, Killultagh Vic landed the Free Festival Upgrade Ticket Offer Hurdle, the highlight of the New Year’s Eve card in Punchestown, writes John Ryan
The eight-year-old jumped untidily but, suited by the race conditions, came through to challenge Diamond King and Ex Patriot going to the last before asserting on the run-in to score by two and three-quarter lengths, providing Willie Mullins and Paul Townend with a boost after a disappointing week.
“The engine is intact, but his hurdle jumping brain hasn’t changed much,” said Mullins.
“Today’s job is done and we must just hope everything is okay with him over the next few days. We’ll see how he recovers from this race before we make plans.
“I had considered staying over hurdles with him. But he’s not a natural hurdler, as you saw today so we’ll be looking for a fence for him now.
“The Thurles race (the Kinloch Brae) might come a bit soon for him, but he could run in a race like the Red Mills in Gowran.”
Gordon Elliott ended a great year with a 58-1 treble, shared with Davy Russell, as Monbeg Notorious, Robin Des Mana, and Veneer Of Charm did the business.
The test of stamina presented by the opening beginners chase over an extended three miles and a furlong proved ideal for 8-11 favourite Monbeg Notorious.
The six-year-old made most of the running and galloped on relentlessly to see off market rival Augustin by seven and a half lengths.
Elliott said: “He’s a big galloper and we’ll try him in some of the long distance handicaps, races like the National Trial here (on February 11) or something in England. I don’t think he’ll be running in graded races.”
Elliott and Russell were back in the winner’s enclosure after Robin Des Mana proved a fortunate winner of the two-mile Goffs Punchestown Invitational Sale Handicap Chase.
The 7-1 shot, in the colours of Brendan Scully, was left clear when the challenging 7-4 favourite, Surrogate Lad, fell at the final fence, leaving Russell’s mount to beat Thirsty Work by 19 lengths.
“He’s got his act together a bit, although I suppose he was fortunate the other horse fell, but jumping is the name of the game,” said Elliott.
“It’s nice for Brendan (Scully), a good supporter of mine. And we’ll keep him to two mile handicaps.”
The Elliott-Russell treble was completed when Veneer Of Charm made a successful hurdling debut in the Festival Hospitality On Sale 3-Y-0 Maiden Hurdle, quickening nicely to beat Les Arceaux by three-quarters of a length.
“He’s a grand honest horse and should win plenty of races,” stated Elliott. “We’ll mix and match it with him, hurdles and flat.”
Unplaced at Leopardstown on Thursday, the Jarlath Fahey-trained 25-1 shot Returntovendor (Ian McCarthy) produced a typically gutsy display to outstay Brave Out in the Buy Your Tickets Online Handicap Hurdle.
The winning rider was subsequently handed a one-day whip ban.
“He didn’t wear cheekpeces in Leopardstown and only got going when they turned for home,” explained Fahey.
“We put them back on today and it made a big difference. He’s a lazy horse and doesn’t have his mind on the job all the time, so he needs help.
“But he’s tough and keeps trying. He won on New Year’s Day and that’s his fourth win in the calendar year. We might look at the three-mile handicap in Leopardstown early next month.”
The two-mile Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle went to well-backed 3-1 joint-favourite Urbanist, confidently handled for Shane Nolan by Eoin O’Connell, which came through smoothly to beat Glen’s DD convincingly.
Denis Hogan saddled the final winner of 2017 when Moyhenna, ridden by Paul Cawley, got the better of Best For Dubai by a neck in the mares bumper.
Hogan said: “She hasn’t run a bad race all year. She’ll go for a mares maiden hurdle over two and a half miles plus at the end of the month or in early February. But you won’t see the best of her until she jumps a fence.”
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