Mullins on target for best Punchestown Festival in recent years

15:25 28 April 2012

Quevega jockey Ruby Walsh (left) with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and trainer Willie Mullins (right) after winning the Ladbrokes.Com World Series Hurdle during day three of the Punchestown Festival at Punchestown Racecourse, Naas.

Quevega jockey Ruby Walsh (left) with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and trainer Willie Mullins (right) after winning the Ladbrokes.Com World Series Hurdle during day three of the Punchestown Festival at Punchestown Racecourse, Naas.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

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Willie Mullins continued his dominance of the Punchestown Festival with a brace of wins on the fourth day to secure his eighth and ninth victories of the five day carnival.

The success of Hurricane Fly and Glens Melody on Friday surpassed his seven winners here last year and keeps him on track to better the 12 he bagged at each of the 2009 and 2010 Festivals.

This year’s highlights include a four-timer on Wednesday and fielding the first three in yesterday’s feature race – the Grade 1 Rabobank Champion Hurdle – as Hurricane Fly finished ahead of his stable mates Zaidpour and Thousand Stars.

“Hurricane Fly’s class won the race for him,” Mullins admitted after the 4-11 shot had prevailed by two and a half lengths. “Although he did the job once Ruby [Walsh – jockey] sent him on, he only just did enough there.

“Maybe the ground was a bit tacky for him. Sometimes, as horses get older, they get a preference for different ground.

“The run at Leopardstown [victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle in January] took quite a lot out of him and he had a hard race at Cheltenham as well, so maybe he was thinking of that today. This win will have done his confidence good. We’ll try and get him out earlier next season and do what we did with him the previous year.

“The other two ran crackers and Zaidpour had both ears pricked and I thought turning for home that he might flip things up. He might run again at Auteuil as could Thousand Stars.”

Walsh said: “I’m relieved. From the time we jumped the first hurdle I was never happy. He went to post grand and all the rest but halfway down the back I was thinking to myself, ‘I wouldn’t mind being on Zaidpour’. But in fairness to him, pure raw ability and guts has won it for him.”

Mullins had earlier struck with wonder mare Quevega who landed the World Series Hurdle on Thursday for the third successive year.

“She is just an extraordinary mare,” Mullins said. “She did everything Ruby asked, he had no problems throughout the race and she was in real racing mode today.”

“She’s a really good mare and showed it today – [second placed] Voler La Vedette came into the race with good credentials after her great run at Cheltenham so we were a bit worried about that for Quevega.

“But she did the business and I’m absolutely delighted with her. She is just an extraordinary mare.”

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