Day one of the Punchestown Festival was dominated by Willie Mullins who saddled five winners including the three richest races.
He was expected to land the €59,000 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase and did so in style, but with 7/1 chance Colreevy and not 10/11 favourite Monkfish as widely anticipated. To be fair the race was expected by punters to be a match between the jolly and Henry De Bromhead’s Envoi Allen sent off a 6/4.
Sadly, the eagerly awaited tussle between the two wasn’t to be. Envoi Allen appeared to not to be going well from four out and was pulled up before the second last. The winner made all under the trainer’s nephew Danny Mullins and stayed on well despite making a Horlicks of the last. Talking after the race Willie Mullins said ‘On ratings she was the best-rated. Obviously, Envoi Allen is not right, and Monkfish probably didn’t run his true race, but she did and probably ran an even better race than she did in Cheltenham’. The mare who is in foal to Walk In The Park will now retire to the paddocks.
The richest race of the day, the William Hill Champion Chase worth €147,500 went emphatically to the Mullins trained 6/5 favourite Chacun Pour Soi who made virtually all to win unchallenged under Paul Townend from his Rachael Blackmore ridden stablemate 6/4 second favourite Allaho 5 ½ lengths back in second. The winner was a Cheltenham banker that let his backers down when sent off the 8/13f in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. Speaking after the race today the winning trainer said ‘Cheltenham was disappointing, I felt it wasn’t the Chacun Pour Soi that we know. I don’t know why he did what he did at Cheltenham, and maybe we just weren’t positive enough on him. Anyhow, he was disappointing, but it’s good to see that he’s back to himself.’
The winning jockey echoed those words confirming, ‘We were all disappointed in Cheltenham. The horse didn’t fire there. His jumping kept me in my comfort zone at all stages. That just allowed me to fill him up as we went along, and he was a joy to ride and gave me a serious thrill’. Concluding ‘They’re animals and not machines, he didn’t fire at Cheltenham, but he fired today.’ The winner is now best priced 7/1 for next year’s Champion Chase.
Earlier, Mullins was victorious with 8/13 favourite Echoes In Rain in the eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle under the trainer’s son Patrick. The winning handler said, ‘It’s a great start to the week for Patrick and for Echoes In Rain’s connections. She is a filly that’s improving as she learns about racing. She just made one mistake, and Patrick blamed himself because he didn’t want her to jump it as well as she was setting herself up to jump it because she was going to land there too soon, so he let her fiddle it. I would say we’ll probably stick to this jumping game. She’s learning how to pace herself jumping now, and you’d have to be happy with that.’ The trainer hinted that he might target the Champion Hurdle for the mare, she’s currently top-priced 14/1 for that.