Mullins joy at 'fantastic' five
Golden Silver was the highlight of a simply awesome day for champion trainer Willie Mullins who saddled five of the six winners at a very cold, but exciting Punchestown yesterday.
The frost got the better of the opening Cross Country Chase, leaving just a six-race card and it was Willie Mullins who claimed the opening four of them and then went on to take the concluding bumper to record his first ever five-timer as a trainer.
The opening leg of the quintet was in the feature Boylesports.com Tied Cottage Chase where Golden Silver managed to come from well off the pace to deny Cheltenham's Champion Chase winner, Big Zeb, and Cheltenham's Arkle winner, Sizing Europe.
It was a fascinating renewal of the Grade Two contest and having seemed outpaced in the early stages Golden Silver looked to be showing he had enough of racing after a quick sequence of runs.
However, having been tenderly cajoled along by Paul Townend -- himself opening up the first leg of a four-timer -- Golden Silver flew home in the final half-mile and rallied late to collar Big Zeb in the closing stages.
Connections of Big Zeb admitted he may have hit the front too soon, but that was a lesson learned and for Violet O'Leary and supporters of Golden Silver, it was a deserving victory after four previous defeats by Colm Murphy's stable star.
"It just goes to show if you're not in you can't win," said Willie Mullins afterwards. "I wasn't keen in coming here as I thought he would be flat after his recent runs, but that way of running obviously suits him rather than training.
"I imagine he would go straight across to Cheltenham but a lot can happen between now and then.
"If I saw another race beforehand like this, I would have a look.
"I was looking at the Ryanair at Cheltenham but I don't know now. Obviously that style of running, dropping in obviously suits him."
Winners two, three and four came in quick succession as Some Target justified some significant support to win on his handicap debut in the Grand National Trial and he could also be Cheltenham bound for the four-miler.
The master of Closutton saddled a 1-2 in the Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle where Gagewell Flyer held off the late challenge of Earlson Gray who was making his Irish debut.
Gagewell Flyer was completing a hat-trick and will now get aimed at either the Neptune Investments Novices Hurdle or the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival.
There was a winning debut for French recruit Raptor, who was easy to back but ran out a comfortable winner, again under Paul Townend.
Mullins was keen to give the six-year-old grey a crack at the Albert Bartlett although admitted he would also get an entry for the Neptune Investments Novices Hurdle. He said: "I actually saw him in a parade ring in France and thought he was a beautiful horse and at the same time my wife Jackie saw him on the television and rang me to ask what the grey horse was, so we ended up buying him for Aidan Devaney.
"He was only getting going at the end so I think he deserves an entry for the Albert Bartlett. He was bought as a chaser and he's an out and out stayer."
The terrific five-timer was completed in the last as debutant Celtic Folklore overturned some lofty reputations to take the concluding bumper for Patrick Mullins and his father afterwards stated the six-year-old son of Luso could go straight over hurdles.
Of his first ever five-timer Willie Mullins said afterwards: "It's fantastic. We never had five winners on a day before -- not even with two meetings on!
"I thought coming here that Gagewell Flyer would be my best chance of a winner if I was to have one at all but I'm delighted with that and it shows that the horses are all in good form."
The only other trainer to get a look in yesterday was Robert Tyner. Philip Enright was doing the steering as the well backed Square Sphere won the Pertemps Qualifier Handicap Hurdle.