Mullins delight as Arvika produces superb comeback
STAR of the show at Punchestown yesterday was chasing debutant Arvika Ligeonniere, which made a stunning comeback to romp to victory in the Beginners Chase at Punchestown.
Ridden by Ruby Walsh, the Willie Mullins-trained gelding made all and jumped superbly, with the exception of a slightly untidy jump at the third last. At the line, the son of Arvico eased to a 13 lengths win over Tom Horn, but the margin did not reflect the winner's superiority in any way.
Mullins remarked: "He was electric! He just met one wrong, but for a big horse, to be so agile is promising. I doubt we'll get another run into him unless we get an awful summer, but we'll see what happens in the next few weeks. That will probably be it until next season, though."
Mullins was completing a double as he had earlier struck with Balnaslow, which justified 1/6 favouritism with the minimum of fuss under Davy Russell in the Dobbins Food Hall Maiden Hurdle.
Jumping well at the head of affairs, he didn't need to come out of second gear to comfortably beat Captain Lob by a length and a quarter.
The champion trainer stated: "We might keep Balnaslow going if the ground stays right. He'll go on good ground and if we could win another hurdle with him shortly, I'd suggest to the owners that we go chasing next term -- he's an absolute natural jumper."
The Donal Hassett-trained Droim Toll took the feature event, the Breakfast With Hector On 2FM Handicap Chase run over a marathon three miles and six furlongs. Returning from a break and racing from 4lb out of the weights, the 10-year-old travelled well for Davy Condon and emerged on the scene three out.
Give Us A Hand layed down a challenge and although the two leaders then opened the door for Smoking Aces by making independent mistakes at the second-last, it was Droim Toll that found more after the last, pulling four and three-quarter lengths clear.
The Champion Hunters Chase went to Enda Bolger's On The Fringe which stayed on strongly in the straight to comfortably beat That Beats Banaher in the hands of John Thomas McNamara.
Bolger, without a racecourse winner for 152 days, said of the 7/4 favourite: "On The Fringe will continue to mix it between cross-country and hunter chases -- he got a stone bruise when he was over at Cheltenham and that is why he didn't run there. He is still a relatively fresh horse and should make up into a nice La Touche horse in time as he is good at the banks."
Roger Quinlan partnered last year's runner-up Mr Goodenough (11/10) to victory in the KFM Hunters Chase, while bottom-weight Dunro Boy broke his hurdling duck under Paul Townend in the Tote Sports Lounge Handicap Hurdle. John Carr's charge was sent off a 16/1 shot, but was cruising on the turn for home and skipped seven and a half lengths clear of Tornant.