Willie Mullins' title surge at Punchestown

Colreevy ridden by Patrick Mullins wins the Weatherbys General Stud Book Irish EBF Mares Flat Race

Willie Mullins sent out six of the seven winners on day two of Punchestown after Colreevy won the closing mares' bumper on an astonishing day.

Gordon Elliott began the week with a lead of over €500,000 on Mullins, and he still had a cushion of €405,839 going into the second day of the Festival meeting. However, Elliott saw his lead obliterated as Mullins enjoyed a stellar evening.

Colreevy won the closing bumper under Patrick Mullins following on from Patricks Park who claimed a narrow verdict in the preceding Guinness Handicap Chase, a result that saw Mullins take the lead in the Irish trainers' title race.

Wins for Bellshill and Next Destination in the feature events were supplemented by victories for Tornado Flyer and Pravalaguna as well (see below) as Mullins took a near €50,000 lead in the trainers' championship from Elliott (€5,061,850 v €5,013,689).

With Paul Townend doing the steering, the 11/2 chance Patricks Park travelled strongly to the lead and held a narrow advantage when his nearest pursuer Blast Of Koeman made a terrible mistake at the final fence.

Phillip Enright performed miracles to keep the partnership intact and rallied Blast Of Koeman despite losing his irons, but they were narrowly beaten at the line.

Oscar Knight and the Mullins-trained Polidam finished third and fourth respectively.

Mullins said: "I didn't expect to be in front on Saturday, let alone on Wednesday. It's been a fantastic day and everybody has been getting a slice of the cake, which is great.

"On the last day everything that could go wrong did with Patricks Park, it was a complete disaster, but everything went right today. Paul (Townend) said the horse was idling but kept pulling out more when they came to him. I thought he was beaten maybe at the second last, he appeared up there very easily and I thought 'right, that's it, run over' but he just kept pulling it out. The Galway Plate would be a possibility but he does like some dig in the ground.

"It has been an extraordinary day. It is like fantasy racing. The whole day has gone by so quickly. We came here today under a little bit of a cloud, and what a reply from Paul and all the jockeys and the horses. It is absolutely tremendous. Punchestown has been good to us and today has been extraordinary."

Mullins added of Bellshill: "He could be a Gold Cup horse. The performance he put up in Fairyhouse (placed fifth in Irish Grand National) was a Gold Cup performance in my book, and today has just confirmed that."

Mullins' bumper haul

Tornado Flyer led home a one-two-three for Mullins in the Racing Post Champion I.N.H. Flat Race.

The champion trainer fielded four of the 10 runners, with 9/4 favourite Blackbow seemingly the stable's number one hope in the hands of the trainer's son, Patrick.

Carefully Selected, who finished three places ahead of Blackbow when second in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, made much of the running under Derek O'Connor, but looked at the mercy of Blackbow rounding the home turn.

However, Champion Bumper third Tornado Flyer, a 12/1 shot under Richie Deegan, came home best of all to claim top honours.

Blackbow was second and Carefully Selected was third.

The Champion Bumper winner Relegate, also trained by Mullins, was well beaten on this occasion.

Townend back among the winners

Townend was delighted to be back in the news for the right reasons after steering Pravalaguna to success in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle at Punchestown.

The former Irish champion jockey endured an afternoon to forget on Tuesday when his dramatic final-fence manoeuvre aboard likely winner Al Boum Photo in the Growise Champion Chase led to him picking up a 21-day suspension for dangerous riding.

Townend, who was also ordered to forfeit his riding fee, later revealed he thought he had to bypass the obstacle and in doing so took out the Colin Tizzard-trained, Robbie Power-ridden Finian's Oscar as he steered his mount across the track.

Making his first appearance in the saddle since, Townend rode a cool race aboard the Mullins-trained 11/4 chance Pravalaguna and she ultimately eased to a comfortable eight-length success over Not Many Left.

Townend said: "That takes a bit of weight off my shoulders.

"I just want to put yesterday behind me now and move forward. I have a job to do, that was the mentality I came with today.

"I have a lot of good people behind me and that means a lot in this game."

Townend's error of judgement left The Storyteller in front in the hands of Davy Russell and he would go on to lead home a one-two-three for Mullins' title rival Gordon Elliott.

Speaking after Pravalguna's success, Mullins said: "It shows you the mettle of the man as Paul was under a lot of pressure going out there and he was very cool the whole way.

"I'm delighted to see that what happened yesterday didn't shake his confidence. He's a popular guy and that showed in the reception he got here today.

"He came into the yard this morning and got slagged like every jockey would, and then as it turned out Joe Tizzard (Tizzard's son and assistant) was the first visitor we had this morning.

"The two of them met in the barn and had a chat. It was unfortunate what happened yesterday, but nobody died and nobody is injured."

Prince Garyantle ran his rivals into the ground with a game all-the-way performance to cause a 25/1 upset in the Adare Manor Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle in the only race of the day Mullins did not win.

Adam Short had no stamina concerns on the Matthew Smith-trained eight-year-old, who kept up the gallop and his advantage over the opposition.

Prince Garyantle came home virtually unchallenged by eight and a half lengths from Sophie Leech's British raider Man Of Plenty. Killaro Boy, the gamble of the race, was a further four and a half lengths away in third and Nobody Home was fourth.

Smith said: "I was a little bit worried that fitness might catch him out as it is six months since he ran. I'm delighted as they are a sound bunch of lads that own him.

"He was entered in a couple of races (here this week), but he wouldn't have got into the other races so I had this in mind.

"He'll be on the go now for the summer. We said we'd see what happened today but the plan was to go chasing and he could run on the Flat as well.

"He won in Tramore and Kilbeggan last year before improving a lot to win by 23 lengths at Clonmel and he's after improving again. He keeps surprising me."

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