Tuesday 19 September 2017

Glory for Willie and Patrick Mullins as father-son team take Champion Hurdle with Wicklow Brave

Dublin , Ireland - 28 April 2017; Jockey Patrick Mullins, left, and trainer Willie Mullins, right, with Wicklow Brave after winning the BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle at Punchestown Racecourse in Naas, Co. Kildare. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Dublin , Ireland - 28 April 2017; Jockey Patrick Mullins, left, and trainer Willie Mullins, right, with Wicklow Brave after winning the BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle at Punchestown Racecourse in Naas, Co. Kildare. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Press Association Sport Staff

Wicklow Brave was a surprise winner of Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle.

Champion trainer Willie Mullins sent five runners to post for the Grade One contest, although that number was reduced by one after Diakali was withdrawn at the start.

Of the remaining trio Wicklow Brave went off at 12-1, but took over the lead from Identity Thief in the back straight and never looked back under the trainer's son, Patrick.

My Tent Or Yours and the winner's stable companion Arctic Fire attempted to close the gap after the final flight, but Wicklow Brave was not for catching and Patrick Mullins punched the air as they passed the post a length and a half to the good.

Nicky Henderson's admirable veteran My Tent Or Yours was second yet again, with Arctic Fire's third-placed finish providing Mullins with a further boost in his battle with Gordon Elliott for the trainer's title.

The Elliott-trained Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Labaik was back in action just three days after failing to start in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle.

With Davy Russell taking over in the saddle from Jack Kennedy and a visor applied, he did consent to jump off, but never threatened to land a telling blow, passing the post a never-nearer fourth.

The Mullins first string, Vroum Vroum Mag, was well-beaten.

Wicklow Brave, wearing blinkers for the first time, provided his trainer with his first Classic success when winning last year's Irish St Leger at the Curragh.

Mullins junior said: "It's fantastic and I'm very grateful to Nick Peacock (owner) for letting me ride the horse.

"He was nearly stood at the start, but when he was going forward and jumping fantastic I didn't want to bring him back.

"I didn't think we were going a mad gallop and I said I'd take a chance and just let him enjoy himself.

"He's always threatened to do this. I rode him here one day and he was third behind Faugheen and Nichols Canyon.

"It's a massive thrill and I'm very grateful to everyone involved.

"It's nice to ride a Classic winner over hurdles!"

Earlier, Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power continued their incredible run of form as Woodland Opera claimed top honours in the EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase at Punchestown.

The combination has been riding the crest of a wave ever since Gold Cup hero Sizing John starred in a Cheltenham Festival treble last month.

Harrington and Power subsequently teamed up to land the Irish Grand National with Our Duke and have enjoyed another brilliant week at Punchestown, with Harrington saddling four winners and Power riding four winners heading into day four.

Woodland Opera was the well-supported 11-4 favourite for his big-race assignment and was always travelling strongly.

Once the front-running Dicosimo folded, Woodland Opera moved to the front and he had enough in the tank to repel the Willie Mullins-trained Arbre De Vie by three-quarters of a length.

Power said: "I said to Mrs Cooper (owner) when I rode him back at Leopardstown in March he'd win this race and it's great when a plan comes together.

"He's usually a very good jumper. He was a bit novicey at the fourth-last, but at the last three fences he was brilliant when I needed him.

"He's a gorgeous big horse."

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