Geraghty times his run to perfection on Lough
Carlingford Lough emulated his dramatic last-to-first Irish Gold Cup swoop with a carbon copy triumph in yesterday's Bibby Financial Services-sponsored edition at Punchestown.
At Leopardstown, it was Mark Walsh that brought John Kiely's King's Theatre gelding back from the dead for Grade One glory.
This time, Barry Geraghty pulled the rabbit out of the hat, galvanising his willing JP McManus-owned partner to capitalise on Road To Riches' crashing fall for an unlikely victory in the €200,000 feature.
It capped a remarkable turnaround for the former champion. Earlier in the month, he was hit with a 30-day ban after the Limerick stewards found him guilty of making insufficient effort on Noble Emperor.
Geraghty got the charge thrown out on appeal, and he maximised the lifeline by plundering the week's feature event. He was also among the Grade One winners on Tuesday, so it has been a pretty emphatic reversal of fortunes.
On Carlingford Lough, Geraghty's efforts were indisputably sufficient. As had been the case at Leopardstown in February, his mount was last for much of the race and looked a spent force a mile from home, five lengths detached from its five rivals.
With Ruby Walsh electing for a change of tactics in an effort to conquer the odds-on Cue Card on Djakadam, Davy Russell had been left alone to dictate the pace at his leisure on Road To Riches.
Circumstances conspired against Walsh, as Cue Card misfired. Russell was still marginally in control when Road To Riches took a horrible fall two-out.
Djakadam was struggling with the injection of pace at that stage and Don Poli was labouring away on the outside of the trio. By now, Geraghty had got Carlingford Lough rolling. When Road To Riches crashed, the complexion of the race changed. Geraghty had all the momentum and he challenged between the two Willie Mullins runners to finally lead with a spring-heeled leap at the final fence.
It was as if he had just joined in, which, in a way, he kind of had.
The 12/1 shot, beaten 22 lengths when fourth to Don Cossack at Cheltenham, surged home in front of Djakadam and Don Poli, which had been second and third in the Gold Cup. They also filled the minor places behind Cue Card at Aintree.
Cue Card plugged on to be fourth here, a shadow his usual self. Like a lot of results this week, there wasn't a whole lot of logic to the outcome. Still, Carlingford Lough, successful in Tuesday's Grade One novices' chase in 2014, is now a five-time winner at the highest level.
To think that he won the 2013 Galway Plate off a rating of 133. Kiely, the famously shrewd Dungarvan handler, has certainly got the most out of the horse.
"He got going a bit late at Cheltenham and he doesn't seem to handle the course there," Kiely ventured. "Barry learned from Mark Walsh as well, so credit must go to Mark for the ride he gave the horse at Leopardstown. He is an easy horse to train once he is fresh."
Kiely still rides out at 79 years of age. "I ride this horse out practically every day and I was very happy with him," he added. "He has been a great servant. I've been coming to Punchestown since 1948, when I was here as a child, and this is a never-again experience in my life - but once is lovely!"
"What a trainer John Kiely is," Geraghty gushed. "He has done an amazing job with this horse."
Of the manner of victory, he said pointedly: "It's good when it works. Some will knock you for coming late, but you always try to save a bit and time it for the line, so it's nice when it works."
Mullins departed with a Grade One double to equal last season's record of 30 Grade Ones.
The champion trainer had the cut of a relived man after Bellshill clung on for Walsh in the three-mile novices' hurdle. As 2/1 favourite, the six-year-old, another son of the late King's Theatre, was his fourth successive market leader in a Grade One at the Kildare festival.
The first three came up short on Tuesday and his frustration was compounded by his saddling the runner-up in each instance, but Walsh made no mistake here.
He cruised up the inner from the rear on Bellshill to lead at the final flight, and had enough in the tank to repel Coney Island.
"That is a bit special after yesterday," Mullins admitted of Graham Wylie's charge. "This fellow has been to all three of the festivals as well. He is very tough, and I thought Ruby was very brave on him to sit and sit. This fellow will go over fences next season."
In the Champion Bumper, Katie Walsh beamed after Blow By Blow (14/1) secured her a landmark triumph. "It's great to win a Grade One - I've never won one before," she revealed. "I'm over the moon!" Mullins' son Patrick drove 10/3 shot Augusta Kate - also contesting her third festival - to victory to complete a 194/1 treble in the finale.
The Martinstown final went to Shamiran at 16/1. Dermot McLoughlin received plenty plaudits for his 13-year-old Vics Canvas' gallant Grand National third, and this was no less laudable, as Niall Kelly's 11-year-old mount was winning the race for a third time. Attendance was 18,181, up 1,301 on 2015. The bookies' take also rose by nearly €60,000 to €1,180,748.