Gaillard Du Mesnil digs deep to secure Punchestown prize
Gaillard Du Mesnil landed a second Grade One of the season with victory in the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown
The five-year-old took advantage of the late withdrawal of Bob Olinger, who had beaten him in the Ballymore at Cheltenham, to add this to his top-level success at Leopardstown in February.
It was not entirely straight forward however, as he had to dig deep to see off Ashdale Bob by two and a quarter lengths.
Jockey Paul Townend was winning his 100th race of the season and said: “This lad was keen enough throughout the race, with just the four runners it was messy enough. Thankfully he’s won and it’s brilliant for Mr and Mrs Donnelly (owners) as well.
“He was sloppy at the last down the back. For a four runner race there was a lot going on. All’s well that ends well.”
Mullins added: “That was a very good performance and I think he’s going to be a nice horse next year.
“There is a good possibility that he’ll jump fences next season and that might help him to settle as well. He’s too busy during a race, but once he learns to relax, he’ll give a lot more.”
Mullins was taking his tally at the meeting to 15 as top-weight Asterion Forlonge had earlier totally outclassed the opposition in the EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase.
Giving between 10lb and 21lb to his rivals was no problem for the Grade One regular. Things had not gone right for Asterion Forlonge (11-4 favourite) after he made a winning debut over fences on this course in November, but he has been taking on the best novice company.
However, the seven-year-old grey got back to winning ways in some style with a 14-length demolition of the opposition under Bryan Cooper. Walk Away was second with Port Stanley third, four and three-quarter lengths further adrift.
I think he can improve a lot next year and be able to tackle top graded racing
Mullins said: “The drop in class makes a big difference to the pace of a race and he was able to get it all together. Even with top-weight in a handicap, it’s a different pace than you would have in Graded races.
“Nicer ground helped as well. I think he can improve a lot next year and be able to tackle top graded racing.
“Any of our top-weights that have won that race have turned out to be very good horses (Kemboy won in 2018 and Real Steel in 2019) and I think this fella has the potential to be that as well.
“Bryan said he was travelling at all stages of the race.”
El Barra (12-1) made it 16 for Mullins in the SalesSense International Novice Hurdle and also completed a double for jockey Sean O’Keeffe after Rapid Response had earlier got up in the dying strides to mug Scarlet And Dove in the Hanlon Concrete Irish EBF Glencarraig Lady Francis Flood Mares Handicap Chase.
The Jessica Harrington-trained seven-year-old managed to collar Scarlet And Dove, who had looked the likely winner when going on after jumping the third-last fence.
However, a mistake at the penultimate obstacle did not help her cause and she could not put the race to bed with Rapid Response (9-1) capitalising late on to score by a neck.
Kate Harrington, assistant to her mother, said: “We always thought there was a big one in her and it’s lovely to see her go and do that.
“It’s quite fitting for the week that the Potts (owners) have a winner with them donating a statue of Sizing John.
“It was a race meeting that Alan and Ann always loved to come to each year. Magic Of Light won it off a mark of 128 back in 2018, and I think Rapid is going to be an exciting staying filly going forward.
“It was the plan all year to aim her at this and it was very exciting just getting up on the line. As a young horse, Ann had a very fond connection with her before she passed away.”
John Hanlon was delighted a plan came to fruition when Rewritetherules (evens favourite) took the Paddy Power Hunters Chase for the Bishopscourt Cup in the hands of amateur Tom Hamilton.
“The plan when they bought him was to win this Cup. The O’Rourke’s (Dermot and Diane) wanted to win this cup for years and they are only four minutes from the course. I’m delighted to get the job done for them,” he said.
“He’ll probably go on hurdling and chasing now and could come back for this race next year.”
Bob And Co and David Maxwell edged out Billaway and Patrick Mullins in a thrilling finish to the Irish Daily Star Champion Hunters Chase.
Billaway made a brave attempt to made all the running but was just denied as Bob And Co (3-1) ran on determinedly from the last to snatch the spoils by a nose. The pair pulled eight lengths clear of Staker Wallace in third.
It was a second victory at the meeting this week for UK’s champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls following Clan Des Obeaux in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday.
Maxwell said: “It’s amazing, absolutely unbelievable. The horse just wanted it badly, he was never going to lie down and was just always pulling out a bit more and a bit more. He deserved to get it.
“This is the heart of racing – here and Cheltenham. It’s an unbelievable sport that a 43-year-old businessman can come here and do that.”