Wicklow so brave for Mullins

Willie Mullins took a €19,420 lead in the battle for the trainers’ championship when Irish St Leger winner Wicklow Brave (12/1) took the €250,000 GRADE 1 BETDAQ PUNCHESTOWN HURDLE.
But for Mullins, every bit as important as the prize money, was the fact that the trainer’s amateur son Patrick was in the saddle, securing victory with an inspired front-running ride.
“Patrick winning this race means so much to me, the prize money was not what was on my mind,” said the successful trainer. “The horse took off and Patrick had enough sense not to fight him. He got the horse jumping well and they flew over the jumps. Turning in I thought that if Patrick could maintain it and not make any mistake then he had a right chance.
“Patrick started at the back but I think Wicklow Brave might have run away with him going down the hill. He won the Irish St Leger from the front and Patrick really got him jumping down the back. He pinged hurdles and was gaining lengths. I thought he was cooked after the second last but Patrick got a right good jump at the last. You could see Patrick eyeing up a big one and he hit him taking off. It was all or nothing.
“We put the blinkers on because he can dwell and we didn’t know what was going to happen at the start with Diakali, Labaik and Wicklow Brave. We thought it could be carnage!
“For an amateur to do something like that is very special. For his size I don’t know how he does it. To do that here means so much.
“I had the horse entered at York on the Flat next week but I thought he was needed more here. In another year he might have gone there. I’m delighted for his owner Nick Peacock, who is a very loyal supporter of the yard.”
Patrick Mullins added: “I am very grateful to Nick Peacock for letting me ride the horse. He nearly stood still at the start, but while he was going forward I didn’t want to take him back. I said I would take a chance and let him enjoy himself.
“Wicklow Brave has always threatened to do this. I rode him here one day when he was third behind Faugheen and Nichols Canyon. It is nice to ride a Classic winner over hurdles!
“He jumped so well and is so quick over his hurdles – he is like liquid. I am very grateful to everyone at home for making it happen.”
The length and a half runner-up was My Tent Or Yours (8/1). The J P McManus-owned 10-year-old was finishing second for the third consecutive occasion, having occupied the same position in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Aintree Hurdle this season.
His trainer Nicky Henderson said: “My Tent Or Yours deserves one but nobody is going to get off and say ‘after you, because you deserve it.’
“The other runners come back tomorrow but My Tent goes straight to Martinstown for his holidays. Three festivals is very hard to do and he deserves it.
“He has been a legend throughout his life but to come back at this age and run three races like that is great. It won’t get any easier for him to win one but it won’t stop us trying.”
Mullins’ championship rival Gordon Elliott earlier saddled Definite Ruby (7/1) to win the €75,000 HANLON CONCRETE EBF GLENCARRAIG LADY MARES HANDICAP CHASE over two miles and five furlongs.
“We needed that! There was plenty of pressure coming into the week but we have had a great season no matter what happens,” said Elliott.
“She won the race last year and we said we’d train her for it again. Jim (Power), her owner, has been very patient and it’s great it worked out.”
Rider Jack Kennedy added: “It’s great to get a winner. Definite Ruby is a star of horse. She won this same race last year but obviously had more weight this time around. She is so tough.
“I am after getting three falls the last three days and I was stood down for the rest of yesterday. It is nice to get a change of luck.”
Woodland Opera, a winner at last year’s Punchestown Festival, continued a fabulous week for trainer Jessica Harrington and jockey Robbie Power when capturing the €100,000 EMS COPIERS NOVICE HANDICAP CHASE over two miles and five furlongs.
The seven-year-old, part-owned by her breeder Valerie Cooper, justified 11/4 favouritism when scoring by three-quarters of a length and Harrington admitted the win was not a total surprise.
“Woodland Opera was the one horse I really fancied all week. I really did because he won here last year beating some good horses,” she said.
“He made one mistake but otherwise he was foot perfect through the race. Today was the plan from a long way out and I’m not sure if he’ll run again or we’ll put him away.
“Long may this run continue, I can’t quite believe it. The horses are looking well and running well. They appear to be healthy and when you have healthy, sound horses, you can go and win races.”
Power added: “I said to Mrs Cooper when I rode this horse at Leopardstown back in February that he would win this race. It’s great when a plan comes together, isn’t it?
“He is a good jumper in the main but can be a bit novicey when he gets in close. He made a mistake at the fourth last and I had to give him a slap down the shoulder, but at the last three fences he was brilliant.
“He is by Robin Des Champs out of a top class mare in Opera Hat. All the other foals she had were little rats, whereas this lad is a gorgeous giant.”
The opening two and a half-mile KFM HUNTERS CHASE FOR THE BISHOPSCOURT CUP went to six-year-old Das Mooser (5/1), who scored by eight lengths from last year’s winner Shin A Vee.
“After Das Mooser won her point-to-point, she had a few little problems. We got them ironed out, brought her back in and this race just fitted in nicely. We had this planned for a while and thank God it all worked out,” said winning trainer Mark Fahey.
“She is brilliant to jump. She unseated first time out in a point-to-point because she was too brave but after leaning from that she has been amazing to jump. For one so inexperienced, she was brilliant out there.
“Today is her style of running. It was the same in her point-to-point – she jumped out and made all. Johnny King does all the schooling on her and recommended to come here, although he is injured at the moment. Thanks to Johnny.
“I have been training for four years and to have a winner at the Punchestown Festival is brilliant. It is our local track and the owners only live down the road.”
Jockey Richie Deegan added: “Das Mooser has lots of scope. She was getting a bit tired and lonely in front but in fairness she was good.
“She travels really well. I rode her a couple of weeks ago and Mark [Fahey] said she is type of the mare who likes to get on with it. She won her point-to-point like that.”
Full event information and tickets are available from www.punchestown.com
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