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Hercules too strong for Cork rivals as Mullins enjoys treble


Willie Mullins. Photo: Sportsfile

Willie Mullins. Photo: Sportsfile

Willie Mullins. Photo: Sportsfile

IT proved a real Sunday feast for Willie Mullins as the champion trainer added to his Punchestown double with a treble at Cork in which the success of Black Hercules was the highlight.

A former point-to-point winner at nearby Dromahane, Black Hercules was sent off a near-unbackable 1/6 hotpot for the two-mile maiden hurdle and he duly justified his prohibitive odds. The five-year-old - fourth in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham - had little trouble in making a winning debut over the smaller obstacles and took up the running at the fourth flight.

Thereafter, the Andrea and Graham Wylie-owned gelding was always in control and while he was untidy at the final hurdle, Paul Townend remained motionless as the pair passed the post two and a quarter lengths clear of A Hardy Nailer with a full 24 lengths back to third-home Real Man Of War.

"It was straightforward enough. He was clumsy at the last, but it was probably my fault," said Townend.

"He galloped them into the ground. He jumped a bit big at times, but he's a proper horse and stuck at it well.

"He has point-to-pointed and he's a big, scopey horse. We know he'll jump a fence in time, but we'll see what he can do over hurdles first."

Just over 30 minutes earlier, Townend had also been in the winner's enclosure after a similarly facile success on the Mullins-trained Sempre Medici (1/4) in the opening maiden hurdle. The Rich Ricci-owned four-year-old was on terms with leader Walk To Freedom at the third-last before easing to the head of affairs at the next and going on to score by eight lengths.

"There's plenty of room for improvement with his jumping, but the ground was plenty heavy. We went very steady and his jumping will come in time," Townend said.

Aubrey McMahon ended the day in style for the Closutton team as he steered Rio Treasure (4/1) to a nine-length success over the 11/8 favourite Montys Meadow in the bumper.

"I blame myself for getting beat on her at Galway. I should have dropped her back. She ran with the choke out. She has loads of gears," said the amateur rider.

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Triple bumper winner Rory O'Moore (10/1) gained an overdue second hurdle success in the featured Ticket Sales Online Handicap Hurdle for trainer Ronnie O'Neill and his amateur rider son, Johnny.

The nine-year-old made all and held the 3/1 favourite Roll It Out by a length and a half.

O'Neill senior said: "I was worried about his fitness with the ground and stepping up to two and a half miles. He hasn't schooled over fences but I don't see any reason why he wouldn't jump fences. We'll wait until the very good horses have won over fences before sending him chasing after Christmas."

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