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Mullins bullish after Quevega confirms class

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Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins celebrate after winning the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle with Quevega at Punchestown. Photo: Sportsfile

Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins celebrate after winning the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle with Quevega at Punchestown. Photo: Sportsfile

Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins celebrate after winning the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle with Quevega at Punchestown. Photo: Sportsfile

For a fleeting moment the dust-up that everyone wanted to see threatened to materialise, but Quevega effectively left Voler La Vedette for dust in the pouring rain at Punchestown yesterday.

Fresh from their defiant effort behind Big Buck's at Cheltenham, Andrew Lynch and Voler La Vedette had stalked Ruby Walsh on Quevega in the early stages of the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle.

By the time the Grade One began in earnest half a mile from home, however, it was Lynch who looked to have stolen first run, with Walsh forced to switch his mount on more than one occasion to get a clear passage. As Mourad yielded on the final bend, the two mares eventually eyeballed each other, but it was a brief encounter. With Quevega, it usually is.

The Hammer and Trowel Syndicate's star settled matters with a devastating turn of pace that belied her worthy rival and the prevailing ground conditions. She had a handsome five and a half lengths to spare at the death, with Mourad back in third.

It was Quevega's third win on the spin in the €160,000 three-miler, and another stunning display from a truly sensational horse. Willie Mullins, fresh from a four-timer on Wednesday and completing a 14/1 double on the day, was suitably impressed with the 11/10 shot, though he was not for turning when it was put to him that there was surely only one peak left to scale with the four-time Cheltenham heroine.

"I have no problem tackling Big Buck's and if he gets into the mares' hurdle at Cheltenham, we'll take him on," he quipped after his daughter of Robin Des Champs was welcomed back to huge cheers from an adoring crowd.

"We are going the way we are going with her and I am happy with that. I suppose people felt she hadn't beaten much before, but Voler La Vedette had the credentials after Cheltenham. It was a great performance."

Earlier, Mullins' son Patrick staked his claim for ride of the week by landing Uncle Junior's nose in front on the line from a seemingly hopeless position in the four-mile Avon Ri Resort La Touche Cup.

The 22-year-old was partnering his third winner of the Festival and a first in the famous banks race for both him and his father. Given that Uncle Junior was lumping a massive 12st 7lb, it was an equally admirable equine shift.

"I thought it was an extraordinary performance from the horse on ground he doesn't like," the five-time champion trainer admitted of the 6/1 co-favourite.

brave

Champion jockey-elect Davy Russell rode his 103rd winner of the campaign when Tofino Bay, which vied for the lead from the off, ground out a brave result in the Stephens Green Hibernian Club Hurdle.

The Naas Court & Il Fico Restaurant Handicap Hurdle saw Oliver McKiernan's Whatever Jacksays gallop to a massive 17-length rout from the front under Robbie Colgan at odds of 8/1.

On a day when 13,286 -- 2,241 less than 2011 -- turned up to witness a depleted card that saw two chases, including the Ryanair Chase, fall to the weather, the bumper went to an impressive Buckers Bridge (9/2) for Henry de Bromhead and Davy Roche.

Irish Independent