Thursday 20 June 2019

Mullins and Russell crowned champions at Festival

Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh yesterday. Photo: PA
Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh yesterday. Photo: PA newsdesk

Willie Mullins was officially crowned Irish champion jumps trainer for the 12th time on the final day of the Punchestown Festival.

Mullins started the week more than half-a-million euros behind his great rival Gordon Elliott, but went into yesterday's final day with an unassailable lead after an epic week and finished the festival with a remarkable 18 winners.

Mullins enjoyed a Grade One double on the final day with Benie Des Dieux and Saldier, finishing on €5,968,275 to the €5,158,751 of Elliott, to equal Tom Dreaper, trainer of the mighty Arkle, in winning a dozen titles.

"I'm enjoying training as much as ever and trying to find new horses and identify them and having nice winners," said Mullins. "It's not getting any easier - Gordon is making sure of that!"

Davy Russell claimed his third Irish jump jockeys' championship, adding to the back-to-back titles he secured in 2011/12 and 2012/13. He said: "It's been a fantastic year. I suppose we started off there just to try to get the wheels back in motion and we had a very good summer and obviously Gordon has been such a huge help to me."

The triumph caps a memorable couple of months for Russell, who won the leading jockey award at the Cheltenham Festival for the first time in March before claiming Grand National glory aboard the Elliott-trained Tiger Roll just a fortnight ago.

"The Grand National is very special, as I never thought I'd win one," he said. "That's a career highlight and a dream come true. Presenting Percy was another very good horse for me this season, and really I've been very lucky. I'll just try to keep it going now.

"It starts again on Monday and we have to go and do it all over again."

A day after Katie Walsh retired at Punchestown, the ranks of female jump jockeys were further depleted when Nina Carberry hung up her boots after a winner, Josies Orders, in the cross-country. "I had more or less decided that I would stop today regardless," she said.

Carberry, 33, rode six winners at the Cheltenham Festival and won the Irish Grand National on Organisedconfusion in 2011.

See Page 12

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