Davy Russell seals title as Mullins ends on high
Davy Russell retained his title as champion jump jockey with his third century and a hatful of winners for many trainers.
Russell has yet to pass the 126 he achieved when runner-up in the 2007-08 campaign behind Ruby Walsh, but his total of 103 was enough to claim the crown.
He may be guaranteed a certain number of victories in his position as retained jockey to Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary under the Gigginstown House Stud banner, as highlighted by the triumph of Sir Des Champs in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown and Punchestown Gold Cup. But victories for that team alone would not be enough to make Russell the number one.
His wide appeal is illustrated by the fact he gets a host of outside rides for many stables from all parts of Ireland.
"I know it was a tall order for Ruby coming here, but he had five rides and all of them could have won," said Russell yesterday. "I'm lucky enough to have come out on the right side of it. It was nice to win on Sir Des Champs this week and nice to get back on him and win a Grade One on him, they're the important races."
While Russell claimed his second championship, Willie Mullins was again crowned champion trainer, while his son Patrick was the top amateur. Mark Enright landed his first conditional title with 35 victories.
Mullins ended his Punchestown Festival on a high as he claimed the final two Grade Ones of the week to take his tally to 13 winners.
Wins for Glens Melody (7/2) in the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association Fillies Scheme European Breeders Fund Mares Hurdle and Diakali in the AES Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle ended the fixture nicely for Mullins.
Both wins demonstrated the strength in depth that Mullins has, as Walsh rode the disappointing Tarla in Glens Melody's race while the first four home in juvenile heat hailed from his County Carlow yard.
Jockey Paul Townend finally opened his account for the week on Glens Melody, which found an extra gear to see off Shadow Eile by two and a quarter lengths.
"I thought she looked great in the parade ring and she seems to be stronger since her last run in Fairyhouse. She showed a turn of foot there which I didn't think she had," Mullins said.
Diakali took full advantage of the absence of Our Conor in the juvenile race. Mullins's grey made every yard of the running in the hands of Walsh, with Blood Cotil finishing second
Mullins and Walsh then teamed up for their 13th and eighth winners respectively of the week when The Paparazzi Kid (7/1) came from way back to win the Setanta Sports Handicap Hurdle.
Sizing Australia (12/1) denied Enda Bolger's Zest For Life a second win of the week in the Irish Field Chase.
"We've been hitting the crossbar quite a bit all week so I'm delighted," said winning trainer Henry De Bromhead.
Elsewhere, Quentin Collonges outbattled Same Difference in a thrilling finish to the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.