Min to the max
Ruby Walsh's treble at Punchestown yesterday proves that the 39-year-old remains at the height of his powers.
A bit like the horses he has been riding this winter, Walsh himself has probably been coming on for the run, in some respects, and the multiple champion jockey is coming to the boil nicely, just over a fortnight from the hectic Christmas schedule.
The success of Min in the Grade One John Durkan Chase yesterday will give Walsh's boss Willie Mullins a further headache as he attempts to split his battalion in different directions, but the aggression shown by Walsh will not have surprised the champion trainer.
"Ruby probably had to be a bit bold there, but he had to do what he had to do," said Mullins, referring to close-quarter battling between Walsh and Jack Kennedy on Shattered Love in the big race.
As Balko Des Flos led the field to the second-last fence under Rachael Blackmore, Walsh tried to manoeuvre out and Kennedy boxed him firmly in.
It meant resorting to Plan B for Walsh, but Min was travelling the best of the trio and was just able to squeeze down the inside of Balko Des Flos, jumping at the second-last fence, before leading over the last.
This was an improvement from both Shattered Love and Balko Des Flos on their first runs of the season, but they had to settle for minor honours behind a career best for Min.
"I would have no problem coming back to two miles with him, because he has the speed for that," Mullins admitted after Min's second win from three starts over two and a half miles.
"But we have Un De Sceaux, Great Field and Footpad for that division so we'll have to see which horses go where," the trainer added.
Min's success came shortly after Great Field failed to get his landing gear out at the second fence of the Hilly Way Chase down at Cork and parted company with rider Jody McGarvey.
That was a rare blow on an afternoon which saw Mullins notch up six winners, three at both Cork and Punchestown.
The Grade One bumper winner Tornado Flyer was more workmanlike than his price of 2/5 might have suggested but would look a smart recruit to hurdling, while Getabird brought up the Punchestown treble. Last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle favourite is likely to head to Limerick next to be kept on a right-handed course.
Paul Townend enjoyed a four-timer in Mallow. Maze Runner, Come To Me and the impressive Camelia De Cotte were all for the Mullins team, while Townend edged level with Rachael Blackmore in the jockey's championship at the expense of Great Field's fall by winning the Hilly Way Chase on Castlegrace Paddy for Pat Fahy.
Meanwhile, Presenting Percy's owner Philip Reynolds suggested the idea of the Gold Cup favourite running in the King George at Kempton on St Stephen's Day if the ground doesn't turn softer in Ireland.
Presenting Percy missed yesterday's John Durkan Chase after the recent rainfall made little impact on the ground and Reynolds is hoping that enough will fall in the coming weeks to allow the RSA Chase winner run in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.