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Friday 18 August 2017

Mullins junior shows he packs huge punch'

Special day for father and son

Jockey Patrick Mullins with the trophy after winning the BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle on Wicklow Brave at Punchestown yesterday. Pic: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Jockey Patrick Mullins with the trophy after winning the BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle on Wicklow Brave at Punchestown yesterday. Pic: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

We expected twists and turns this week but nobody could have expected this.

Willie Mullins will go into the final day of the Punchestown Festival, the final day of the season, leading Gordon Elliott at the most significant stage and in his hour of need it was his son, Patrick, that came to the rescue.

"If it comes to pass (trainers title) it will make it all the more special after what Patrick did today - that was huge to us," the trainer said.

Mullins is eyeing a 10th consecutive trainers championship and is now odds on favourite to do so after a marvellous day with his son riding a Grade One double on Wicklow Brave and Bacardys.

Of course, Patrick himself has now taken aim at Jamie Codd and can still tie for his 10th consecutive amateur title, barring he picks up any spare rides at the meeting this afternoon.

Much of the attention in the Champion Hurdle revolved around the start where Labaik is so often a non-goer, but there was also concerns about the Mullins pair of Wicklow Brave and Diakali, the latter of which didn't race and was withdrawn, but Wicklow Brave jumped with them to become the first horse since Royal Gait to win a Group One on the flat and a Grade One over jumps.

The Irish St Leger was well supported and having taken up the running under Mullins around the half way point the eight-year-old held off all challengers with the Champion Hurdle bridesmaid, My Tent Or Yours back in second.

Unsurprisingly, for the trainer and extremely proud father, this meant more than a lead in the trainers championship.

"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.

"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!"

Of Patrick, he added: "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."

That would be just the first leg of a treble for the father and son duo as Bacardys was victorious and ended Finians Oscar's unbeaten record in the Tattersalls Champion Novice Hurdle.

Verdict

The treble was completed in the penultimate race on the card when Montalbano led home a 1-2 for the stable with Riven Light taking the lead and then getting headed again in the final strides with Mullins' mount getting the verdict by a neck.

Gordon Elliott's only winner of the day came courtesy of Definite Ruby in the valuable mares handicap chase prior to any Mullins winner and while he could not have predicted what was to come, you could sense the relief that winner gave him.

"If I can go into tomorrow anywhere near him (Willie Mullins) at all I've a lot of guns to fire then," said Elliott.

And that he does and in yet another twist to this story, it is Apple's Jade, who won a Grade One for Willie Mullins by 41-lengths this season, who will need to win now for Elliott to give him any chance. Stay tuned.

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