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Arvika makes case with pace

ON Friday after declarations it looked like there was plenty to learn from yesterday's Grade One John Durkan Chase at Punchestown but with the defection of Flemenstar on Saturday afternoon and the fall of Sir Des Champs after just three fences, we learnt little about the up-and-coming winner Arvika Ligeonniere.

Sent off the 4/7 favourite, Arvika Ligeonniere was well fancied to beat the Gold Cup runner-up and his stable companion Sir Des Champs and the outsider of the field, Rubi Light, who won this race in 2011.

And it was simply a matter of getting around safely after Sir Des Champs took a crashing fall three fences in to the 2m4f contest.

Thankfully the Gigginstown House-owned Sir Des Champs appeared none the worse for his fall and now the absent Willie Mullins, who was in Hong Kong where Simenon ran earlier in the day, has to mull over his options with Arvika Ligeonniere having himself learnt very little about the eight-year-old.

Ruby Walsh enjoyed another good weekend with five winners between the two Irish meetings and he was fairly definite in his views on his latest Grade One winner. "He has lots of pace and I would be inclined to go back in trip with him but we'll leave that for Willie to sort out.

"He has loads of pace and you are giving that away when you go up in trip as you are trying to restrain the horse and you are taking the pace out of your artillery."

Reflecting on how the race panned out Walsh added: "I'm just glad that both Davy (Russell) and the horse are up okay. Nobody wants to see that but it was a chase and they are there to be jumped. It's very unlike Sir Des Champs, I don't think he has ever fallen before.

"My horse had beaten Rubi Light in Clonmel so after Sir Des Champs fell all he had to do was run up to that same level of form again, but he jumped well and he had been working a good bit better coming here than he had before Clonmel – but Sir Des was working well too in fairness.

Patrick Mullins, who was representing his father, revealed; Sir Des Champs is fine. I'm just not sure what happened and it's not March. March is a long way away and he will go to the Lexus all being well in the morning but Gail was happy with him walking back."

Of the winner, he added: "Arvika Ligeonniere is in the King George and he is in the Dial-A-Bet and I'm not sure the plan but with what Ruby said the Dial-A-Bet will probably be the option.

"He is probably better going right-handed but he did win a Grade One around Leopardstown as a novice over two miles so I wouldn't be worried about that.

"We are just glad that Sir Des Champs is okay. It's put it all into perspective from a horse point of view, as long as they all come back safe and sound that's all that matters."

Mullins went on to win the concluding bumper on the odds-on favourite Black Hercules, who justified the support behind him to provide the champion trainer with his ninth winner of the weekend.

The winning rider owned Black Hercules when he won a point to point trained by Emmet Mullins and he joked afterwards: "I never felt pressure like that before and I rode Cousin Vinny who was favourite in the Supreme Novices!"

He continued: "He probably wasn't as visually impressive but a horse just clipped his heels turning in and it took him a furlong to recover but I was delighted with him and he'll want further in time."

To go with the four-timer at Navan on Saturday, the Aintree winner on the same day and the double at Punchestown, the Mullins team also enjoyed a brace at Cork yesterday with Paul Townend winning on both Rathvinden and Twinlight.

Patrick Mullins concluded: "Rathvinden ran to his bumper form and looks like a horse that could progress to all the spring festivals and Twinlight has been something of a surprise package since Ruby said to send him over fences and he could be another Golden Silver in those races. He's just a real likeable horse."

Dessie Hughes also enjoyed a Punchestown double as Apache Jack claimed the maiden hurdle and he was followed later in the afternoon by Bright New Dawn, who gave Michael O'Leary some compensation for the fall of Sir Des Champs when taking the beginners chase.

Bryan Cooper was onboard both as he replaced Davy Russell on Bright New Dawn after Russell was stood down following the fall from Sir Des Champs in the feature.

Hughes sees both horses as staying types and he said: "Bright New Dawn is in the three-mile Grade One at Christmas and that is more than likely where he will go. That was a good performance for his first run of the season. He jumped well."