| 3.8°C Belfast

Min breaks his duck, but Elliott hails classy treble



No bother: Paul Townend onboard Min comes home to win the Ryanair Chase

No bother: Paul Townend onboard Min comes home to win the Ryanair Chase

�INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Gordon Elliott celebrates his hat-trick at the Festival

Gordon Elliott celebrates his hat-trick at the Festival

�INPHO/Dan Sheridan

No bother: Paul Townend onboard Min comes home to win the Ryanair Chase

Min may have left Willie Mullins smiling when finally removing the tag of Cheltenham Festival bridesmaid with a dramatic Ryanair Chase success, but old foe Gordon Elliott was the merciless one on day three at the Cotswolds with a 549/1 treble.

Mullins had watched Melon (14/1) go down to Elliott's Samcro (4/1) in a head-bobbing finish to the opening Marsh Novices' Chase with the evergreen 12-year-old Faugheen (3/1 favourite) - who will close out his season at next month's Punchestown Festival - back in third but things would pick up for the Closutton maestro as the day continued.​

There has never been any doubting the class of Min (2/1) but the consistent nine-year-old had often delivered his best away from Cheltenham. That changed after a rip-roaring finish which saw Paul Townend fend off Gavin Sheehan on Harry Whittington's Saint Calvados (16/1) by a neck.​

"The horses have been running well and just haven't been getting the rub of the green," Mullins said. "Faugheen and Melon ran great, all the horses seem to be firing without winning.​

"Min was just fantastic through the air and, when he needed a jump, he got them. He put the others under pressure. It was probably wobbly knee time after the last when Saint Calvados came up the inside but he still had a little bit left in the tank.​

"Paul is very cool. He forgets the last race and his attitude is 'next race, let's get on and concentrate on that'. He concentrates on what he has to do."​

The 63-year-old continued his monopoly of the Grade Two Mares' Novices' Hurdle - he has now landed all five renewals - when Concertista (9/2) broke her maiden tag in sensational style by 12 lengths under Wexford rider Daryl Jacob.​

Second in the race 12 months ago on her debut for Mullins, the exciting six-year-old led home stablemate Dolcita (9/1) with Mullins quick to ask "what has the trainer been doing?" with her in the past 12 months.​

"We hadn't won a maiden with Concertista during her career with us, so it's nice to get off the mark here. We'll probably go to Fairyhouse with her next and she has a nice mark on the Flat so we might use that at some stage. She is turning into the mare I thought we had bought at Deauville," Mullins said.​

That brace saw Mullins draw back level with Nicky Henderson as the all-time leading trainer at the Festival with 68 winners but it was Elliott, the young pretender to his throne, who shone brightest in front of a scarcely believable attendance of 65,218, down just 2,500 people from last year despite the threat of the coronavirus.​

The 42-year-old has plenty of time to catch up on Mullins' records with 31 Festival winners already on the board and the Meath handler produced another remarkable training performance to bring Sire Du Berlais (10/1) back to secure successive victories in the Pertemps Final.​

The red-hot Barry Geraghty, who finished the day on four winners for the week and gave owner JP McManus his sixth success, came with a wet sail in the home straight to fight out the finish with another Elliott inmate in the shape of The Storyteller (11/2 joint-favourite).​

Elliott beamed as his horses were "running out of their skin" and even better was to follow as he put one hand on the Leading Trainer award when amateur rider Rob James steered Milan Native (9/1) to success in the Kim Muir.​

The Gigginstown gelding may not have had owner Michael O'Leary in attendance as he tends to Ryanair business at home this week but that didn't stop talented point-to-point jockey James breaking Milan Native's duck over fences at the sixth attempt.​

All eyes were on Cork jockey Aidan Coleman in the Stayers' Hurdle as​ he sought to etch Paisley Park (4/6 favourite) into the history books as a back-to-back winner but it wasn't to be as Lisnagar Oscar produced the shock of the Festival at 50/1 for Welsh trainer Rebecca Curtis and jockey Adam Wedge.​

While Paisley Park normally hits his customary flat spot before flying home, Coleman's mount didn't show any of his usual verve to trail home a tired seventh with a remarkable day for Meath almost completed by Kilmessan trainer Matthew Smith.​

Ronald Pump (20/1) ran a career-best to go down by two lengths with Smith admitting that he "would have been disappointed if he hadn't been in the first three" while Mullins' Bacardys (33/1) was a further three lengths back in a commendable third position.​

The three-mile showpiece was also the last act for Apple's Jade as Elliott's brilliant 11-time Grade One-winning mare bowed out with a creditable eighth place having set a searing gallop.

Connections then revealed that her maiden cover will be the popular stallion Walk In The Park.

Belfast Telegraph