Brits Who D'air Win at The Punchestown Festival as Three Feature Races Go for Export on Day Four
The brilliant Buveur D’Air bounced back to his best with victory in the BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle which headed a brilliant day for English horses on the penultimate day of the Punchestown Festival.
The dual Champion Hurdle winner had been beaten twice this season and fell early when looking to defend his crown at Cheltenham but he was much too good for the home team here. Davy Russell, who replaced Mark Walsh after he suffered a suspected broken right tibia earlier on the card, produced the Nicky Henderson-trained star to lead before the last. Supasundae rallied to lead the chase but he still finished two lengths adrift of the J.P. McManus-owned winner.
“You know we've lost Barry (Geraghty) and then Mark (Walsh) was going to ride him and then we were just lucky that Davy (Russell) was sitting in there with his feet up but he was always going to suit him,” said Henderson. “I love the way he rides those sort of things he just lets them get on with it. It's so great the horse has finished the season looking at his very best and we can go back for the summer now and look forward to next year and now he's the one they have got to beat again, which is great.”
There was further Grade 1 joy for the raiders when Reserve Tank took the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle for Colin Tizzard and Robbie Power. A Grade 1 winner at Aintree last month, Reserve Tank produced a quick jump at the last and that was the deciding factor in his half length victory over Sams Profile.
“He’s a lovely horse, he surprised us at Aintree in all fairness, he was a horse that was terrible over Christmas so we gave him three months off and he's just improved and improved since,” commented the trainer’s son Joe. “He could be anything, it was a lovely performance. It could have been a better race than Aintree perhaps. Today he's travelled so well but when he won at Sundown he looked a bit slow so he's finding a bit of pace. We love using Robbie, he's got his commitments but when we can get him we get him. I haven't a clue what his strike rate is but it's pretty good."
The other English-trained winner came with Caid Du Berlais in the Star Best For Racing Coverage Champion Hunters Chase. This Rose Loxton-trained gelding, who was the only English-trained winner at this meeting last year, produced a brilliant front running effort under the record-breaking English amateur Will Biddick. Caid Du Berlais crossed the line 28 lengths clear of Burning Ambition.
Willie Mullins was yet again the man to follow in the valuable EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase where Real Steel enjoyed a comfortable success under Paul Townend.
The 5/2 favourite was left with a decent lead after the fourth last fence where four horses departed and the recent Grade 1 second was a clear cut winner over. This was the fourth time in five years that Mullins has claimed this €100,000 prize.
“I was able to go the gallop handy enough and horse at the top of the handicap have a great record in this race. He’s done everything right through the season and he’s a very effective horse going right handed,” stated the winning jockey.
Trainer and jockey Denis Hogan claimed the other big handicap on the card when Moyhenna landed the Hanlon Concrete Irish EBF Glencarrig Lady Francis Flood Mares Handicap Chase. When Ellie Mac departed at the second last it was left to Moyhenna and Timeforwest to do battle and Hogan’s mount kept on strongly to pull four and a half lengths clear. The winner is owned by her breeder Robert Hennelly while Rachael Blackmore was stood down after her fall from Ellie Mac.
Hogan, who indicated that next year’s Irish National could be on the winner’s agenda, said: “The yard is going good. Meghan (girl leading up) has been in Musselborough yesterday, she was back this morning at half-five, she got a few hour’s sleep and she headed up here. That's the dedication the lads have, they are all at home there and I guarantee they all inside in my kitchen watching it. I'm delighted for them more than anyone else”.
Patrick Hayes marked his recent return to the training ranks by sending out Flirting Lesa to land the KFM Hunters For The Bishopscourt Cup. This mare was as big as 66/1 earlier in the day before being returned at 14/1 and she made the running for Niall Redmond to defeat last year’s hero, the Peter Maher-trained Alpha Male, by three lengths.
The winning trainer handed in his training licence in 2012 before taking it out again in the last month and he is a brother of Chris Hayes who will ride Madhmoon in tomorrow’s English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
“I must say a big thank you to Jessica Harrington. I ride out for her in the mornings and she lets me use her gallop which is a huge help,” commented Nurney-based Hayes.
As well as his victory in the day’s big race J.P. McManus saw his colours carried to victory by Gardens Of Babylon in the Salesense International Novice Hurdle. Derek O’Connor replaced Mark Walsh on Joseph O’Brien’s second winner of the meeting. O'Connor went on to complete a double when winning the concluding GVA Donal O'Buachalla Property Advisors Bumper for Martin Brassil in the colours of Sean and Bernardine Mulryan.
The crowd on the penultimate day of the Punchestown Festival was 32,506. Racing returns on Saturday with Benie Des Dieux set to be the star attraction on AES Festival Family Day. The first on an eight race card on Saturday is due off at 2.35pm.