Vic continues Mullins run



Willie Mullins continued his clean sweep in the Punchestown Festival Grade 1s when Killultagh Vic held off the Colin Tizzard-trained Thistlecrack by half a length to take the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle.

The 8/1 shot, partnered by Paul Townend, fared better than stablemate Shaneshill, who was sent off 11/8 favourite and finished third.

“Killultagh Vic has improved since Cheltenham,” said Mullins. “He’s a good stayer and I’m not sure if we’ll stick to hurdling or go over fences next season. The plan had been to go chasing but we’ll look at what’s around for the staying hurdles and then decide. Paul was fantastic, he kept his mount asleep and used Ruby (Walsh on Shaneshill) as his lead horse!

“I don’t know if Shaneshill didn’t stay or he was feeling the effects of Cheltenham. He appeared to stop so we’ll have to see if a reason emerges.”

Townend added: “Killultagh Vic dug really deep for me. I thought off the bend that I might win well but I missed the last and landed a bit flat-footed.

“The firepower down there [Willie Mullins’], they have so many runners in these races. They are second strings because Ruby [Walsh] is not riding them, but with any other trainer they would be first strings.”

Colin Tizzard said of Thistlecrack: “It is a bit frustrating to get that close. Thistlecrack got shut in on the last bend but that’s racing. He made up a lot of ground and stayed on beautifully.

“I would have thought he will go chasing now – normally that is what we would do. He is just a lovely a big horse and I can’t wait to go over fences, although it has not been discussed yet.”

Shamiran, winner of the 2012 Martinstown Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle, landed the event for a second time when springing a 33/1 surprise in the opening heat on day two of the Punchestown Festival.

The 10-year-old recently rejoined trainer Stephen Nolan after a spell with Rodger Sweeney.

“I have only had Shamiran back for three months,” said Nolan. “The owner asked me where I wanted to go and I just wanted to see how fresh he was first. Once we freshened him up, the plan was to come back here and he ran a good race in Fairyhouse last time.

“He was working nicely at home and looked strong and well. When he wants to do it, he can be good and did it well today.

“The rain came at the right time – that big shower helped – and to have a winner at the festival meeting is fantastic.”

Joceky Andrew Ring added: “Shamiran won this back in 2012 and I was lucky to get on him because I had no ride at 11.30 yesterday morning.

“My agent got me up on him and said he had a chance. Stephen felt the same and said to ride him with plenty of confidence. It is great to win at a festival like this. I had my biggest winner a few weeks ago in a grade C handicap in Cork, so things are going well.”

There was an even bigger turn-up in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle when the Jessica Harrington-trained Walk To Freedom finished with a wet sail to score at 50/1.
“He’s always had ability but his form figures had a lot of letters and not too many numbers. Last time out he buried Robbie (Power). If you look through his record, one day we could not even get the jockey on because he got loose in the parade ring,” said Harrington. “He is very quirky and it said in the racecard that he could do anything. But today he got it all together and when he does that he has got a good engine.”

“He has got plenty of ability and is chaser in the making – that is where he will go next.”

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