Felix Yonger pounces late for team Mullins
Danny Mullins capped what has been a fiercely redemptive season for him with a perfectly executed late lunge aboard Felix Yonger to thwart Baily Green in the Boylesports Champion Chase.
The feature on day one of the Punchestown Festival had an open look to it, but Felix Yonger had been in the form of his life coming into the €200,000 contest.
Willie Mullins also saddled the disappointing favourite Champagne Fever and Twinlight, with Ruby Walsh and Paul Townend respectively preferring them.
That allowed the champion trainer to reward his nephew for some stellar efforts by reinstating him on the horse that had already carried him to his biggest victory this season in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork.
The 23-year-old seized the opportunity to stretch Felix Yonger's unbeaten run to four after a pulsating joust with the game front-runner Baily Green.
It was no more than he deserved for the defiant manner in which he has responded to being sacked from the role of Barry Connell's retained rider in the autumn.
"l'm lucky that these Grade Ones have become apart of my season," Mullins said humbly, having been second in the highest echelon at the Cheltenham Festival on Arctic Fire and Milsean. "I'm glad to have won one here".
"That's great for Danny," his uncle said after the Graham Wylie-owned nine-year-old plundered its first Grade One at odds of 5/1.
"He's riding out of his skin. He is just back from America where he had four winners from seven rides, and he had the confidence to be patient when this fellow needed a breather. They are a good partnership."
Felix Yonger started its racing career with the jockey's father Tony before taking a circuitous route to the insatiable Co Carlow yard.
The all-conquering outfit signed off with a 58.5/1 treble, Valseur Lido (15/2) also upstaging its better-fancied stablemate Don Poli in the Growise Champion Novices' Chase.
Walsh was on the right one here, as Bryan Cooper preferred the odds-on Don Poli of the Gigginstown Stud trio. The market leader trailed in last, with the firm's Wounded Warrior holding on for second.
"I've said all along that Don Poli wants further, and the ground is good enough here, which probably suited Valseur Lido more," Mullins said. "It's nice to have a reserve like that. Gigginstown have some team and they are both nice horses."
Douvan (left) returned an SP of 1/6 in the Herald Champion Novices' Hurdle and won accordingly to initiate Mullins' clean sweep of the three Grade Ones. Jezki and Faugheen landed the €95,000 two-miler before achieving ultimate glory in the Champion Hurdle, and Mullins' facile Supreme Novices' Hurdle hero might yet scale similar heights.
This was a bloodless rout that taught us little we didn't already know, but it was still hard not to be impressed by Rich Ricci's son of Walk In The Park, which Mullins reiterated could be right up there with the best he has had.
"He probably has to be," he reaffirmed. "He keeps answering every question. I can't wait to get him over a fence but we'll have to talk with Rich before we make plans.
"He is nearly 17 hands high, but he was so efficient there that you could see him doing well over hurdles. He could be anything."
JP McManus enjoyed a 17/1 brace courtesy of Wish Ye Didn't and Some Article.
Wish Ye Didn't (8/13 fav) secured Enda Bolger a fifth win in six years in the Fr Sean Breen Memorial banks race for last year's winning rider Nina Carberry.
Some Article, backed from 14/1 into 10/1, knuckled down to collect for a third time in four starts under Niall 'Slippers' Madden in the handicap hurdle.
Tom Mullins suggested that the 2012 Goffs Land Rover Bumper victor could be aimed at the Galway Hurdle now that he has started to deliver.
Yesterday's €100,000 edition of the prestigious bumper went to Giggintown's Gordon Elliott-trained Petit Mouchoir, which justified 4/1 favouritism for Jamie Codd.
On a cold and blustery day peppered with wintry showers, there was a 33/1 upset in the final bumper when Jane Mangan drove Timing'severything to victory for Cashel handler Pat Twomey.