All the news from day 3 of the Punchestown Festival – Quevega just outstanding

The Peter Maher-trained Big Shu (9/2 Co Fav) followed up his success in Cheltenham’s cross-country chase when showing great resilience in the testing conditions to hold on to win the AVON RI CORPORATE & LEISURE RESORT CHASE FOR THE LA TOUCHE CUP.

 

It’s just a fairytale. Big Shu is a brilliant horse but he was very tired. He is very honest and top notch. It’s great for the stable and he is a great horse for the small man. Me and Barry (Cash, jockey) are hunting men and we love our cross-country,” said Maher.

 

“I want to thank JT McNamara and dedicate that win to him because he started Big Shu off over fences for me. He wouldn’t be the same horse without those rides because he got him jumping.

 

“I’ll send the horse out into a field now for a very long time. He’s done Cheltenham and he’s done Punchestown and I was worried that he had too much weight today. I didn’t think he’d get caught because he always gives his all.”

 

Ruby Walsh got off the mark at this year’s Punchestown Festival when Twinlight (8/1) defied top-weight of 11st 10lb to land the BIBBY FINANCIAL SERVICES HANDICAP CHASE for trainer Willie Mullins.

 

“When he was running over hurdles we sometimes thought he was less than tough but over fences he has been a revelation,” said Mullins. “I thought we were beaten after the third last but he just kept finding more. Davy Russell (on runner-up Far Away So Close) must have been rubbing his hands thinking the race was his.

 

“The horse is at his optimum over two miles on soft ground and I’ll have a look at his hurdles rating and might have a go at that. I’ll also see if there are any opportunities for him in France.”

 

The opening STEPHENS GREEN HIBERNIAN CLUB HURDLE saw a return to form for Rye Martini (11/1), who scored by two lengths for trainer Colm Murphy and jockey Davy Russell.

 

“It’s fantastic to get a winner here and Rye Martini is a nice horse. He is a giant and chasing is his game. I’d think he’ll be put away now,” said Murphy. “He has won over two and a half miles here on soft ground and I imagine he will start off over a similar trip next winter but I have no doubt he will get three miles. He is versatile and has loads of pace.

 

“He was a bit keen and doing too much the last day in Fairyhouse but Davy locked him up today and he settled well.”

 

QUEVEGA JUST OUTSTANDING

 

Super mare Quevega landed a fourth consecutive LADBROKES WORLD SERIES HURDLE with great ease although her task was made more simple by the withdrawal at the start of Solwhit, who was 11/8 favourite at the time.

 

Trainer Willie Mullins felt that Quevega was in better form today than at Cheltenham last month, when she captured her fifth successive David Nicholson Mares Hurdle.

 

“She answered Ruby’s every call today and did what she had to do,” said Mullins. “We worried going into Cheltenham that she was a bit big but she worked brilliantly last Saturday and that was the first time that I thought I had her really race-fit.

 

“I don’t wish Solwhit was there. It’s unfortunate for his connections but by the grace of God it could have been us. I don’t know what happened to Solwhit but it can happen to any horse at any time. He was obviously well enough to come here today but something must have happened on the way to the start.

 

“We are not afraid to enter Quevega in the two mile championship races because she has that sort of speed at home. We are lucky enough to have a horse like Hurricane Fly but if we didn’t have him, she could run in the two mile races.

 

“I was very nervous approaching the last, just hoping that she wouldn’t fluff her lines because one or two years here she has made a mistake at the last. Today she jumped perfectly throughout on ground she is not liking as she gets older but she strong now and able to cope with it.

 

“She has a French cross-country pedigree and that’s what I said to people at the start. With this sort of ground, you would like to be bred that way.

 

“We possibly could take her to France but the big target next year will be to get her to Cheltenham again.”

 

Ruby Walsh added: “Quevega is a brilliant little mare. The ground was plenty heavy enough for her but, in fairness, it’s plenty heavy enough for any horse today.

 

“She is exceptionally placed and trained and has a great attitude. Her lad does a brilliant job with her because she is not the easiest mare in the world to look after. He doesn’t speak much English but he speaks Quevega.

 

“She is so accurate in her jumping, she travels, she’s honest – she is the real deal. She has won four of these, five in Cheltenham and although Solwhit didn’t run, you can only beat what is put in front of you and beat them she did.

 

“There’s no doubt it was better for us that Solwhit didn’t run. It’s all about winning and if you take out the favourite it makes it easier.”

 

Solwhit’s trainer Charles Byrne’s explained the horse’s withdrawal: “There was blood coming from his nose and it turned out to be a scratch but Davy had no choice but to withdraw the horse because there was blood there. We dodged a right one anyway in Quevega.”

 

Today’s attendance was 16,116. It compares with 15,527 in 2011. The 2012 Thursday was rain-affected.

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