Quevega triumphs in adversity
Quevega overcame a middling pace and a final-flight blunder to prevail from her Willie Mullins-trained stable-mate Mourad in an exciting renewal of the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle at Punchestown yesterday.
It was the star mare's second win in the three-mile Grade One, though she had to work much harder for Ruby Walsh than when routing the field 12 months ago, as Mourad laid down a persistent challenge up the straight.
Having tracked Quevega's run off the final bend, Walsh's sister Katie had Mourad well placed to upset the heavily-supported 8/11 shot.
Quevega then looked to have forfeited the initiative when she bungled the last. However, the outgoing champion jockey kept the partnership intact, and Quevega quickly regained momentum to see off Mourad by just over a length, remarkably becoming the first outright market leader to oblige at the Co Kildare festival all week.
Afterwards, Mullins, who went on to complete a double when Kerb Appeal took the subsequent handicap hurdle under David Casey, suggested that Quevega could now be aimed at next month's French Champion Hurdle.
"She must be a machine to do what she did today," he said in reference to her blunder. "To pick up then and still beat Mourad was extraordinary."
The day's other Grade One, the Ryanair Novice Chase, went the way of English raider Captain Chris. Previously successful in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham, Philip Hobbs' seven-year-old was also justifying odds-on favouritism under Richard Johnson.
Captain Chris cruised up to early leader Saludos down the back, but Johnson was hard at work by the time they turned in.
While Realt Dubh travelled well alongside at that stage under Paul Carberry, Noel Meade's Powers Gold Cup hero failed to find as much as the winner.
Hobbs subsequently revealed that Captain Chris would be aimed at next season's King George at Kempton, for which Boylesports quoted him at 8/1.
Earlier, the JP McManus-owned Dr Whizz, a faller when travelling easily at Gowran in March, gained compensation in taking fashion in the two-mile handicap chase. Tom Mullins' charge eased into contention under Tony McCoy turning for home, before forging clear to oblige by nine lengths.
Another Jewel, formerly owned by McManus, recorded his second win over Punchestown's cross-country course for his current connections in the Avon Ri La Touche Cup.
Following the defection of favourite Garde Champetre on veterinary advice, Denis Murphy's nine-year-old edged out Let The Show Begin by a short-head after a thrilling battle up the straight.
In the Aon Hurdle, Thomond O'Mara and Philip Enright combined to score with Tornedo Shay. The three-time bumper winner had struggled somewhat since obliging on his hurdling debut in November, and O'Mara suggested the step-up to two and a half miles on good ground was key to the 16/1 shot's four-length success.
The concluding bumper was won in impressive fashion by the Jessica Harrington-trained Burn And Turn, ridden by daughter Katie.
For the second day in a row, attendance rose marginally yesterday, with 15,527 up a mere 15 on the figure recorded in 2010.