Sunday 15 December 2019

Nina Carberry makes dream start to Punchestown festival with victory on Be Positive

Tom Peacock

There was plenty of drama but a familiar result to the opener at the Punchestown Festival as it went to the combination of JP McManus, Nina Carberry and Enda Bolger.

Bolger is such a specialist at the banks races that he was winning the Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase for the fourth time in the last five renewals.

This event was for young hunters, and 3-1 favourite Be Positive looks to have a bright future having always been handy before skipping 11 lengths clear.

Bolger also trained runner-up Phar And Away, while the Peter Maher-trained Enniskillen ruined his chance when going the wrong way at a sharp bend when in the lead.

"He hadn't run over the banks before, but he jumped lovely and loved the ground," said Bolger.

"He's in on Saturday as well, and we might go again."

Tackling two miles for the first time over timber, the unbeaten Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old jumped much better than he did when winning the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Ruby Walsh never had an anxious moment as the 1-2 shot asserted on the home turn and sealed victory by completing an almost foot-perfect round with a good jump at the last.

Faugheen was left to come home unchallenged by 12 lengths from his stablemate Valseur Lido, with the Mick Channon-trained Sgt Reckless third.

Paddy Power promoted the winner to 5-1 co-favourite for next year's Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Walsh added: "Those were good novices behind and he's beat them 12 lengths and it could've been 25. He's a really good horse.

"When I changed my hands off the home turn he started to lengthen and he was picking up to a fair rate of knots coming to the last.

"He and Vautour are two different types, but the good thing is Willie Mullins trains the two of them, Rich Ricci owns the two of them, so I won't have to worry about who to pick because they won't run against each other!"

Champion Hurdle sponsors Stan James quote Faugheen as 5-1 joint-favourite with The New One, with RaceBets going 7-1.

Cool Macavity (9-1) came with a pulsating late run to strike for Nicky Henderson in the Handicap Hurdle.

Barry Geraghty hid the six-year-old in the pack before delivering him with an unstoppable challenge at the final flight.

Cool Macavity stormed past City Slicker, who had made an admirable bid to make all the running, to win in great style by two lengths.

Stocktons Wing was third and The Game Changer fourth.

Henderson said: "It's a bit different to last year with Sprinter Sacre, which was the most amazing day, but it's a good race to win.

"He's a sweet little horse and he needs fast ground.

"He could go for the Swinton, but that's when Barry is suspended (nine-day whip ban from winning bet365 Gold Cup) and he thinks he is a Galway Hurdle horse."

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