Min rises to task to retain crown at Punchestown

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The Willie Mullins-trained and Paul Townend-ridden Min soars over the last to get the better of Hardline in the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown. Picture: Healy Racing

A spectacular leap at the final fence clinched back-to-back wins for the Willie Mullins-trained Min in the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown today.

The 8-11 favourite, ridden by Paul Townend, made the running in his double bid and survived a couple of mistakes before nearest rival Shattered Love, last year’s runner-up, blundered at the third last.

Turning for home, 25-1 shot Hardline, ridden by Keith Donoghue, loomed up as Min’s only serious threat and, between the last two fences, the hotpot looked in trouble.

But a prodigious leap at the last wrestled back the initiative and Min picked up well to triumph by two and a quarter-lengths with Presenting Percy, last seen when disappointing in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, staying on to finish third, just a length of the runner-up.

Presenting Percy was ridden by JJ Slevin, deputising for Davy Russell, who stood himself down due to feeling unwell.

Willie Mullins declared: “That was an unbelievable performance, to come back after making those mistakes. I’d say he wanted to go faster and it was remarkable how he came from what looked like certain defeat after the second last.

“It was a huge performance, against a field of that quality. The jump he produced at the last showed how much he had in the tank.”

Mullins expressed himself uncertain about immediate plans for Min, but admitted the eight-year-old is unlikely to run over the Christmas period.

There was no joy for Mullins and Townend with chasing debutant Breaken in the beginners’ chase as the trail-blazer was coming back to the field when crashing three from home, leaving favourite Dunvegan (Jack Kennedy) to make a winning start to his chasing career, coasting home an 18-length winner from Valdieu.

“It’s great to get that out of the way,” said delighted trainer Pat Fahy.

““He seemed to be going well at home and it was as easy to run him than arrange to school him after racing.

This has been a lucky old track for me. I came here with no big expectations, knowing the horse would improve for the run. If things didn’t work out, we were going to Leopardstown with him. But, after this, we might come back here for a Grade Three in January.

Henry de Bromhead provided owner Kenny Alexander with another success when Minella Melody justified 4-9 favouritism in the listed Voler La Vedette Mares’ Novice Hurdle.

Minella Melody, successful on her hurdling debit in Cork and ridden this time by Robbie Power, made most of the running, came off the bridle at the back of the second last flight, and stayed on stoutly to beat the Gordon Elliott-trained pair of Mount Ida and Ard Abhaiinn.

“I’m delighted she won,” said De Bromhead.

“It was a workmanlike performance. The lack of hurdles (the two in the back-strait were omitted due to the low sun) didn’t help and Robbie felt she was a bit flat. She didn’t travel as strongly as usual.

“I’d say we’ll look at the Grade Three (Solerina Mares’ Novice Hurdle) at Fairyhouse next month for her, a race we won with Honeysuckle last year.”

The Joseph O’Brien-trained four-year-old Anything Will Do made it four wins from five starts when making all and digging deep to keep Quartz Du Rheu at bay by a length and a half in the opening W H Scott Lifting Supporting Wicklow GAA Rated Novice Hurdle.

“He’s hardy and he’s improving,” stated O’Brien.

“JJ (Slevin) gave him a lovely, simple ride. And any horse that wins four races in a year is a good horse. I think there’s a four-year-old race for him at Limerick over Christmas.”

The two market-leaders fought out the finish of the bumper with Jungle Junction, driven along by Finny Maguire half a mile from home, getting to the front early in the final furlong before being outpointed by Grangeclare Native and Lisa O’Neill.

The winner is trained for Gigginstown House Stud by Gordon Elliott, who said: “He’s a grand horse, still a big baby. Two miles is as short as he’d want. Two and a half miles and jumping is what he wants.

We won’t do much more with him this season.

In the handicaps, Robert Widger’s Treacysenniscorthy, successful over three miles here last month, followed-up in the Carmel Colgan Memorial/Blackrock Insurance Supporting Kilmacud Crokes, staying on dourly under 6lb claimer Oakley Brown to deny the flattering Burlesque Queen by a half-length.

And the Keith Watson-trained Frankly All Talk, a second last fence faller on his last visit to Punchestown, earned compensation when staying on under Paddy O’Hanlon to thwart brave front-runner Biddy The Boss and Carrignagapple.

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