Killultagh Vic makes light of long lay-off in winning return
Killultagh Vic made a successful return from 714 days off the track, producing a determined display to win the Free Festival Upgrade Ticket Offer Hurdle at Punchestown.
The Willie Mullins-trained gelding claimed the notable scalp of Thistlecrack on his latest appearance over hurdles at the 2015 Punchestown Festival.
However, he has been sidelined by injury since winning a Grade Two novice chase at Leopardstown in January 2016 in extraordinary circumstances, almost coming to grief at the final fence only for Ruby Walsh to perform a miraculous recovery and secure the win.
Despite his mammoth absence, Killultagh Vic was the 9/10 favourite on his long-awaited comeback and, while his jumping left plenty to be desired, he was still travelling strongly turning for home.
Paul Townend took dead aim at his rivals in the straight and his mount safely negotiated the remaining obstacles and finished strongly after the last to score by two-and-three-quarter lengths from Ex Patriot.
Mullins said: "His engine is intact all right, but his hurdle jumping brain hasn't changed much!
"Hopefully everything will be all right over the next week and we'll probably look for something over fences for him the next time. He's not a natural hurdler.
"The main thing is just to recover from this race and look for a target after that. I sort of wondered whether I'd stay hurdling with him this season, but the way he jumped there he's not going to step up in class much more.
"We schooled him over fences the other day, before Leopardstown, and maybe that's what was in his head, but he hasn't the best reputation as a hurdler. We'll probably look for a chase.
"The Kinloch Brae in Thurles might come too soon. Maybe the Red Mills Chase (Gowran Park) might suit better."
Veneer Of Charm (100/30) completed a 59/1 treble for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell by making a winning debut in the Festival Hospitality On Sale 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle.
Russell crept up the inside on the Fast Company gelding to challenge Les Arceaux at the final flight and score by three-quarters of a length. Azua Emery, the 3/1 favourite, was 11 lengths away in third.
"He's a grand honest horse and he'll win plenty of races," said Elliott. "He's a horse that will mix and match it between the Flat and jumps. He'll definitely win plenty with a bit of luck."
Monbeg Notorious initiated the treble by making it third time lucky over fences with a comprehensive victory in the Buy Your 2018 Annual Membership Beginners Chase, while Robin Des Mana scooted clear of his rivals in the Goffs Punchestown Invitational Sale Handicap Chase.
The 7/1 shot took over the running rounding the home turn and was left clear after his nearest pursuer Surrogate Lad knuckled on landing at the final fence.
Returntovendor rallied in game fashion to spring a 25/1 surprise in the Buy Your Tickets Online At www.punchestown.com Handicap.
Jarlath Fahey's gelding had been well beaten at Leopardstown three days earlier but was a different proposition on this occasion.
Despite being headed a couple of times at the business end, he found extra from the last for Ian McCarthy to beat Brave Out by a length and three-quarters.
The Shane Nolan-trained Urbanist (3/1 co-favourite) proved best in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle, while Moyhenna was a well-backed 13/2 winner of the bumper for trainer Denis Hogan.