McCoy scores on Kempes to complete Mullins' 779/1 treble
Another red-letter day for champion trainer Willie Mullins, ably assisted by teenage prodigy Paul Townend and Britain's perennial champion Tony McCoy, as he brought off a memorable Punchestown Grade One hat-trick.
A year ago the Closutton handler swept all before him with a memorable tally of a dozen festival scorers and, despite fearing that his team wasn't as strong this time, the results yesterday went very much his way again.
Anyone fortunate enough to have coupled 19-year-old Townend's mounts Blackstairmountain and Golden Silver with Kempes in McCoy's hands emerged with a whopping 779/1 treble.
This opening session of the five-day fixture saw the attendance clearly compromised by the airline chaos and not surprisingly, at 14,177, it was down 2,142 compared to the same day last year when the going was much more testing.
Liberal watering in the lead-up to this week's renewal, which was designed to deliver safe ground, certainly managed that requirement and the general consensus was that there was, indeed, some ease underfoot.
This scenario possibly contributed to Golden Silver -- sporting the famous Florida Pearl colours of Archie and Violet O'Leary -- achieving the most notable triumph of his career thus far in the Boylesports Champion Chase.
The absent Cork couple have seen this French import bounce back from a disappointing Cheltenham run behind Big Zeb to collect now at both Fairyhouse and Punchestown with Townend aboard.
After the mulish 2008 winner Twist Magic refused to jump off for McCoy, prompting both the sponsors and Paddy Power to refund all bets on the horse, the pace was far from generous and it was left to course specialist Sizing Europe to make much of the running on his senior debut.
Still in front of a ridden-along Forpadydeplasterer and Golden Silver turning for home, Andrew Lynch on the favourite was tackled on either side down to the final fence and the Mullins runner soon forged ahead.
"We always thought he needed heavy ground, but that looks not to be the case. We decided to change tactics with him today and wait rather than jumping off with the pace and it paid off," Mullins said.
Townend, who made his task appear simple, "gets on fantastic with this horse as he sits nice and quietly and gives him lots of confidence," added the trainer while Townend added: "He got into a nice rhythm and jumped super. He carried me right to the last and galloped to the line."
Barry Geraghty scotched any notion that Forpadydeplasterer, second here for the sixth race on the trot, lacked resolution. "He struggled through this ground which is well watered and I wouldn't question his attitude."
Sizing Europe's trainer Henry De Bromhead is convinced lack of pace contributed to the favourite's first defeat over fences. "There was no gallop and we had to do all the donkey work -- it just didn't happen for us today."
For the second year in a row, the Mullins yard had the principals in the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, with Blackstair-mountain reversing Cheltenham placings with Flat Out as they fought off McCoy on Sweeps Hill.
The winner could now revert to the flat and prosper again on good ground, while French-bred previous triple winner Flat Out could be heading off to Auteuil next month in search of more testing going.
McCoy later registered his first victory on a Mullins jumper when Kempes, pulled up in the mud at Fairyhouse behind Jadanli, recaptured his sparkle to compensate in the Growise Champion Novice Chase and make a decent initial return on his recent purchase by champion owner JP McManus.
On another difficult day for punters, particularly backers of favourites, the Jackpot wasn't won with the pool of €42,132 rolled over to this afternoon.
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