Sunday 19 November 2017

When the chips are down, you can rely on your own flesh and blood

Patrick Mullins proves that he is made of same stock as his father

Winner of the Best Dressed Lady competition Ann-Marie Phelan, from Kilkenny Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Winner of the Best Dressed Lady competition Ann-Marie Phelan, from Kilkenny Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

The big screens on the course gave this the same dramatic-style billing as a WWE-style clash of the titans.

But they underplayed it.

Twins Dawn and Davinia Knight, from Offaly Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Twins Dawn and Davinia Knight, from Offaly Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Mere wrestling couldn't come close to the tension that has underscored this past week at Punchestown as the gap closed between two warriors of the turf.

And it's far from over yet.

Having started out with a massive €400,000 lead on Tuesday, a far superior season and better luck overall, it seemed the title would finally go to Gordon Elliott after nine years of back-to-back wins for Willie Mullins.

The end of the National Hunt season has never before captured the public imagination as it has done - simply because it's never been this close.

Jennifer Wrynne, from Leitrim Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Jennifer Wrynne, from Leitrim Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Nowhere to be seen yesterday was the man at the centre of this soap opera - Michael O'Leary who transferred 60 horses over to Elliott from Mullins after a dispute over fees.

But when the chips are down, who better to rely on than your own flesh and blood?

Willie Mullins' son Patrick proved to be made of the same fighting stock as his father as the amateur jockey swiftly followed up his big win in the Champion Hurdle aboard Wicklow Brave with yet another effortless Grade One win in the Champion Novice Hurdle with Baccardys.

Almost incredibly, he scored a third win in the Novice Hurdle.

Alannah Beirne Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Alannah Beirne Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

"He was nearly stood at the start, but when he was going forward and jumping fantastic I didn't want to bring him back," said Patrick after his first big race.

"I didn't think we were going a mad gallop and I said I'd take a chance and just let him enjoy himself.

"It's nice to ride a Classic winner over hurdles - he's so quick over them, he's like liquid," he enthused modestly.

Mullins is now in the lead by almost €92,000.

"We needed it. Badly," Elliott said of his early win yesterday.

Sarah Cass, from Kilkenny Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Sarah Cass, from Kilkenny Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

"There's plenty of pressure here this week but we've had a great season no matter what happens. I know Willie's nearly virtually impossible to beat but we'll give him a rattle."

But today remains crucial with three races each worth €100,000 still to go and Elliott's Apple's Jade the name on everybody's lips.

With such nail-biting action on the course, being Ladies' Day there was plenty of eye-catching style off it.

Teacher Ann-Marie Phelan (31) was celebrating her own personal back-to-back wins after scooping the Bollinger Best Dressed Lady event - having also won the best dressed the previous day.

Patrick Mullins with the cup after winning the BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Handicap Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Patrick Mullins with the cup after winning the BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Handicap Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

It was a pleated oriental-inspired red patterned dress from Solace London that caught the eyes of the judges who included Vogue Williams and Bairbre Power of the Irish Independent.

Ann-Marie's headpiece was made to match by Michelle Kearns from Hats Amore, her bag came from Parfois and shoes from Penneys.

Her fiancé Paul Dunning, who teaches with Ann-Marie at Scoil Mhuire Senior School in Newbridge, hot-footed it over to the race course after school.

Irish Independent journalist and best-dressed competition judge Bairbre Power Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Irish Independent journalist and best-dressed competition judge Bairbre Power Photo: Colin O'Riordan

"He said there was so much excitement because my picture was in the paper," said Ann-Marie.

The couple are getting married in New York in November.

"I'm keeping him in holidays so he says," she quipped of her win - a VIP trip for two to the Champagne region in France.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny paid a flying visit to Punchestown ahead of his trip to Brussels for Brexit discussions. He pointed to the "big bearing" Brexit could have on the thoroughbred industry but said it would depend on how negotiations go.

Judge Vogue Williams Photo: Michael Chester
Judge Vogue Williams Photo: Michael Chester

Irish Independent

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