Mullins joy as sensational six-timer boosts Irish title hopes
Willie Mullins turned the tables on Gordon Elliott in spectacular fashion at Punchestown yesterday and is now the red-hot favourite to claim a 12th Irish Trainers' Championship after an incredible six-timer.
Mullins started the Festival €521,413 behind his big rival and while a Tuesday treble reduced the deficit, the story of the opening day was Paul Townend's huge error of judgment aboard Al Boum Photo in the Growise Champion Chase, which led to Elliott training the first three home.
With Elliott going on to enjoy another one-two-three in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper to take his lead back to €405,839 at the close of play, it looked as though that after his heartbreaking defeat in last year's title race, this could be his year.
However, Mullins promised he would not give up his crown without a fight and roared back in scarcely believable fashion, highlighted by a one-two in the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup, and at the end of play he remarkably led by €48,161.
Djakadam jumped superbly in front under the trainer's son, Patrick, but ultimately had to make do with minor honours in the Gold Cup behind 4/1 Bellshill, the mount of the his nephew, David Mullins.
With the Mullins-trained Killultagh Vic also fifth, the trainer earned well over €200,000 in the race and in doing so reduced Elliott's lead to €112,339.
With only one race escaping his grasp on the afternoon, Mullins said: "It's like fantasy racing.
"We've got a tremendous bunch of owners, a tremendous bunch of jockeys and I've tremendous stable staff. Days like this put it all together."
Asked if he had ever had six winners on one day, he said: "I don't think so, no. I had to remember which fingers to put up for the photographers! It's an extraordinary day."
Mullins added of Bellshill: "He could be a Gold Cup horse. The performance he put up in Fairyhouse (placed fifth in Irish Grand National) was a Gold Cup performance in my book, and today has just confirmed that."
Pravalaguna (11/4) and Townend set the Mullins machine in motion by winning the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle before he claimed the two other Grade Ones on the card.
Next Destination (5/4) claimed his second top-level success of the season in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle under Townend, but at that stage Elliott still held sway by €340,589.
However, following the Gold Cup domination and Tornado Flyer's (12/1) success in the Racing Post Champion I.N.H. Flat Race, the tables had turned and Mullins went into the final two races just €30,339 behind.
Patricks Park and Townend - completing his hat-trick to banish the memories of Tuesday - brought up the five-timer in the Guinness Handicap Chase, which saw Mullins go €31,661 in front.
An outstanding day was rounded off by Colreevy, who justified 7/4 favouritism in the Weatherbys General Stud Book Irish EBF Mares Flat Race under Patrick Mullins.