Toasting 'Fly' would cap a great week
Published 23/04/2010 | 05:00
In the run-up to the Punchestown festival, whenever I was asked about my hopes for the week, my response was to play down expectations.
We had 12 winners at the meeting last year, including four in Grade One races, and I just couldn't see us matching that.
I certainly didn't imagine us getting close to four more Grade One winners. But, low and behold, by the end of day one we had three and yesterday Quevega got the fourth.
On Tuesday, you couldn't have fancied Golden Silver on the ground, you couldn't have fancied Blackstairmountain after a very hard race at Fairyhouse, and you certainly couldn't have fancied Kempes to win a Grade One chase on his first ever start over three miles after pulling up last time. In the end it was a terrific day.
The difference after that was that Sivota was fancied on Wednesday and Polmar's success wasn't exactly a surprise, either.
Quevega, of course, was also expected to win, and it was fantastic to see her display all her class once again.
With most of the 60 runners this week, there hasn't been much time for celebrations yet. You feel as though you should mark the occasion, especially after the hat-trick of Grade Ones, but each day just runs into the next.
And you need a clear head. There are a lot of decisions to be made with regard to tactics and what races to run in, so it has been a case of early to bed each night.
Running Quevega yesterday instead of today is the perfect example of one of those quandaries, so it was nice to see her justify our selection. It doesn't always work out that well!
I did call into my brother George on the way home on Tuesday evening for a quick drink, but that has been the extent of it so far. George's son Emmet rode Sivota to victory on Wednesday, which was a particularly pleasing result, as Emmet broke his ribs before Cheltenham and missed out on some nice rides.
It was great for him to get a festival winner on the board, and he could have another today. In the Motivatechallenge.com Chase, he rides Quiscover Fontaine, which is probably the pick of my three in that.
I also have Fionnegas in the Cathal Ryan Memorial Hurdle. He was running a great race before unseating at Cheltenham and the trip will suit him today, so he has a chance, though the shorter trip in the following race won't be ideal for Avrika Ligeonnaire.
Alee Garde should go well in the bumper, but I suppose the highlight will be the return of Hurricane Fly in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle. Everything has gone like clockwork for him recently, and the only worry is whether I have had enough time.
I couldn't get any more work into him than I have done, but he has done everything that I have asked of him very well. We'll only find out around the last hurdle today if that was enough.
It would be great to keep the momentum going through to the last day of the season tomorrow. The Saturday of the festival has a real celebratory feel to it. After the week we have had, I have to say I'm looking forward to joining in a bit of merriment myself.
- Willie Mullins has been Horse Racing Ireland's 2009-2010 National Hunt ambassador and will be crowned champion trainer at Punchestown tomorrow.
For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie