Saturday 24 March 2018

Vroum Vroum Mag hits top gear at Punchestown for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh

Vroum Vroum Mag shows her brilliance in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle
Vroum Vroum Mag shows her brilliance in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle

Vroum Vroum Mag stylishly handled the return to two miles by holding off the persistent challenge of Identity Thief in the Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle.

Only parachuted into the race on Wednesday morning when Willie Mullins was not 100 per cent happy with fellow mare Annie Power, she was heavily backed to prove her class.

Not even favourite when betting opened two days ago, she was sent off at 4-6 and Ruby Walsh wanted to make sure it did not turn into a sprint by picking up the running after half a mile. Identity Thief and My Tent Or Yours tracked her but the latter was burned off approaching the second-last.

After Mullins' inmate got in a little tight to the final flight, Bryan Cooper must have thought he had another chance on Identity Thief but Vroum Vroum Mag, a six-times winner over fences and triumphant in the two-and-a-half-mile Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham, went away to score by a length and a quarter.

Walsh said: "It just shows the strength in depth we are lucky enough to have.

"At the start of the year Nichols Canyon, Arctic Fire and Faugheen looked our main ones and we've ended up winning the Champion Hurdle with Annie Power and here with Vroum Vroum Mag.

"She's always worked with incredible pace. Looking at her you'd think she'd want a trip, but in the last piece of work before the Champion Hurdle we were wondering if we'd put the right mare in.

"I always had faith in her. She was winning over further because of her class, I wasn't sure she was really staying.

"When I asked her round the bend she pricked her ears so I knew she had loads left. She's a diamond."

Mullins said: "She did a spectacular piece of work before Cheltenham and we were left wondering did we supplement the right mare for the Champion Hurdle.

"She can go any road now. She's good enough to run in the Champion Hurdle races and she's good enough to run over fences at any level. We had just been keeping her in the mares' races and climbing the ladder and getting confidence.

"We thought going to Cheltenham she was better than we had thought initially. We thought we'd be coming back here for the three-miler but when Annie Power wasn't right we let her take her chance here.

"My Tent Or Yours and Identity Thief are Champion Hurdle material. If she had got beat we would have been wrong about her. The plan had been to go for the Prix la Barka (Auteuil) but we'll probably keep her for next season now."

Owner Rich Ricci said: "That was great. To be able to win a Champion Hurdle with Annie Power and then this. She is a super-duper sub. I'm very lucky to have two wonderful mares. Of the two, Vroum Vroum Mag could go over fences. I wouldn't be interested in seeing Annie Power over fences."

Press Association

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