Champagne celebration for Mullins
Champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins dominated on a truncated Punchestown card run in gruelling conditions.
Heavy rain, mixed with strong winds, forced the two chases to be scrapped on the day, including the feature Gold Cup, but that did not stop the County Carlow handler claiming four winners on an all-hurdles and bumper card which totalled five races.
Champagne Fever was the headline act as he followed up his Cheltenham success by making every post a winning one in the betchronicle.com Champion INH Flat Race. The grey, owned by Rich Ricci, had demonstrated his class when winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper and showed here he has guts to match.
Champagne Fever had to show tremendous determination to shrug off a strong challenge from Jeremy Scott's Melodic Rendezvous in the straight. Amazingly the 11-4 favourite pulled away in the final furlong for the trainer's son, Patrick, to score by seven and a half lengths. Mullins' other runner, Mozoltov, was third.
The winning trainer said: "That was an extraordinary performance - he is a super horse. I don't know what we'll do next year; we were thinking of going straight over fences like we did with Florida Pearl (after he won the Cheltenham bumper), but I'm not sure now.
"I thought he was out on his feet in the straight, but Patrick said he was just idling. We know that the third (Mozoltov) is a good horse but Champagne Fever obviously stays well and is a good jumper. He is one that we are really looking forward to and has huge ability."
Mullins junior doubled up, and made it four for his father, as Flash Of Genius (11-4 favourite) proved aptly named for the pair in the At The Races INH Flat Race, this time in the Gigginstown House Stud colours.
Marasonnien (12-1) headed a clean sweep for Mullins - and Ricci - in the Irish Daily Mirror War Of Attrition Novice Hurdle. The three-mile Grade One contest was run at a very sensible pace in the wet ground and there were many in with chances coming to the third-last flight.
Paul Townend brought Marasonnien to lead at the penultimate hurdle and the six-year-old kept on strongly to win by three lengths from Vesper Bell (14-1) with the 7-2 favourite Sous Les Cieux only third. All three carried the Ricci colours.
Loch Ard got the ball rolling for the Mullins team as he ran out a convincing winner of the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle.