RACING amazingly got the go-ahead at Punchestown yesterday and although the chases were lost from the card, there was two sensational performances as Willie Mullins enjoyed a double to bring his tally to seven for the week so far.
Many racegoers had struggled to split the top mares Quevega and Voler La Vedette -- as did the handicapper.
However, it was Quevega who showed her authority to extend her current winning streak to six.
Those six races have come in three renewals of the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle and three in this, the Ladbrokes.com World Hurdle, and her sheer class saw her assert by five-and-a-half lengths as she sprinted away after the last despite the heavy ground.
There were more calls for a battle between Quevega and Big Buck's, to which Mullins replied: "I have no problem in taking on Big Buck's. If he gets an entry in the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham, I will have no problem in taking him on!"
With Big Buck's reportedly being a bad traveller, a tilt at the Punchestown Festival would appear extremely unlikely for Paul Nicholls' superstar.
And with Mullins sticking firm with his plans for Quevega not to run anywhere else bar the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle, one of the most exciting clashes possible in racing at the moment seems almost impossible.
"She just did everything Ruby (Walsh) asked of her and when push came to shove she still had plenty left in the tank," Mullins revealed.
"At last she pinged the last hurdle -- last year she nearly fell there but she was in racing mode today and just flew it.
"We have her entered in the Champion Hurdle and I wouldn't mind her taking on the best over two miles, but I just knew if it was going to come down to a sprint here, she would have more gears.
Mullins admitted: "She is fantastic to train as you just train her and aim her for those one or two races every year and she comes up trumps.
"She was in season last week which worried me slightly, but she came out of it fairly quick. She has just got tremendous ability."
Reacting to further questions about a clash with Big Buck's, the trainer added: "We are going the way we are going and I am happy enough.
"I think I am going to keep it simple and sure Ruby would be disappointed, wouldn't he!"
Winning rider Walsh certainly had no interest in seeing the two clash as he would be left with an unenviable choice between the two. He said: "She'll win a Mares Hurdle again. Cheltenham is so hard to win in, why would you run in a race where you would not be favourite when you can line up in a race where she is odds-on.
"The boys that own her are good sports and Cheltenham is where you want to win.
"If she gets back to Cheltenham I think it would be lunacy to run her in anything else."
Boylesports made Quevega 1/3 to win the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle next season while Paddy Power go 1/1.
If it was incredible that Punchestown managed to race yesterday afternoon, the ride from Patrick Mullins on Uncle Junior was just as incredible.
Dropped in the rear by the 22-year-old, who was leading rider for the week going into today, Uncle Junior had 17 rivals to pass with six to jump and he also had the burden of 12st7lbs on his back.
Class prevailed though and Uncle Junior got up under Mullins to win by just a shorthead in an agonising finish for connections of 25/1 shot Lydon House.
A winner over the Cheltenham cross country course, Uncle Junior surprised the Mullinses as the win was on ground he wouldn't have relished and it was a nice win for both trainer and rider.
"I thought it was an extraordinary performance for a horse carrying 12st7lbs but he loves that trip and that was the all-important thing," said the trainer.
"The ride was fantastic and timed to perfection. My mother tells me 'The Boss' (Paddy Mullins) won the race in 1953 so it is a great race to win.
Patrick Mullins added: "For the last mile I was thinking 'ah I sat five lengths too far back' but he really tries and just kept picking up the more I asked him and the last two he had to wing them and he did.
"If I was six inches back it would have been one of my worst (rides) but when it comes off it's brilliant.
"With 12st7lbs I didn't really think he had a chance on that ground and it's a race I will treasure as when you win like that it's very special."
The concluding bumper winner, Buckers Bridge, is a horse we are likely to hear an awful lot more about and he had an impressive nine-and-a-half lengths to spare over Morning Royalty.
Trained by Henry de Bromhead and ridden by Davy Roche, the six-year-old is now unbeaten in three starts and appears to hold a very bright future.
"With him being a six-year-old I am mad to run him over fences," admitted De Bromhead. "I will talk to the owners about what we'll do next year."
Oliver McKiernan faces a tough decision whether or not he will run his recent Aintree winner and the current Punchestown Gold Cup winner in tomorrow's renewal but yesterday Whatever Jacksays showed he handled any ground as he followed up a Wexford win on good ground to produce an emphatic success, 17 lengths clear of his nearest rival.