The brilliant mare Quevega (11/10 Fav) was saddled by Willie Mullins to win her third successive Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle on Thursday 26th April under jockey Ruby Walsh.
“She is just an extraordinary mare. She did everything Ruby asked, he had no problems throughout the race and she was in real racing mode today,” said Mullins, who was enjoying his seventh success of the 2012 Festival. “She has a lot of speed and won three times on the Flat before coming to Ireland and I put her in the two-mile race tomorrow as I wouldn’t afraid of taking them on. We think she’s better on better ground as well.
“She’s a really good mare and showed it today – Voler La Vedette came into the race with good credentials after her great run at Cheltenham so we were a bit worried about that for Quevega. But she did the business and I’m absolutely delighted with her. She is just an extraordinary mare. “She’s fantastic to train and I was a bit worried because she came into season last week but she went out of season quick enough. I don’t know whether we’ll go to Auteuil now, I’ll have a chat to the owners.”
Asked if she would take on Big Buck’s at some point, Mullins said: “As long as he gets an entry in the mares’ race at Cheltenham! But seriously I think we will just do the same next season and why change?
“The plan we follow with Quevega works fantastically well. We always try and get her ready for Cheltenham with a month to spare so if any one thing does go wrong we have her fairly fit. I’m going to keep it simple and I suppose we might meet Big Buck’s somewhere away from Cheltenham but I wouldn’t really want to miss this race to go to Aintree.”
UNCLE JUNIOR BRINGS FIRST LA TOUCHE FOR MULLINS
Trainer Willie Mullins may have dominated the Punchestown Festival in recent years but he had never won the meeting’s most-famous race, the Avon Ri Corporate & Leosure Resort Chase for the La Touche Cup, until today (26 April). The trainer’s son Patrick got up in the closing strides of the 4m 1f banks race aboard Uncle Junior (6/1 Co-Fav) under top-weight of 12st 7lb.
Willie Mullins’ father Paddy won the 1953 La Touche Cup with Flash Parade, his first winner, and Mullins junior was pleased to break his duck. “I’d written him off about three different times in the race and I thought it was an extraordinary performance for him to carry 12st 7lb on ground he didn’t like,” said the trainer. “The trip was the key, he just stays all day and loves extreme distances. He took six runs to win over hurdles and isn’t great over fences now but the banks bring out the best of him.
“It’s a great race to win as an amateur, I’d love to have won it as a jockey, and although my father trained the winner in 1953, I’ve never won it before today.”
Patrick Mullins added: “Uncle Junior is everything you want in a racehorse as he tries very hard. When I jumped into the back of Tally Em Up I thought my chance had gone, but I pulled him out and he stuck his head down and started trying again. A horse like that is invaluable.
“If you saw him schooling over these fences the first day you would never think he would be any good, but he has the hang of it now. He is not the best jumper of the ordinary fences, but these obstacles seem to invigorate him and keep him interested.”
Tofino Bay (5/2) put in a bold front-running performance to land the opening Stephens Green Hibernian Club Hurdle under Davy Russell. Dessie Hughes was getting off the mark for the week and commented: “It’s lovely to win a race at Punchestown. Tofino Bay ran very well on real good ground at Fairyhouse the first day so I was a little bit afraid coming here on ground so heavy today. But he’s tough and goes on the ground.
“He jumped impeccably and he quickened when he needed to quicken. He was off for a year when he got a leg but he has seems to have been improving since coming back this year. It was a good performance and he will go over fences next season.” Davy Russell: “Tofino Bay had a pretty obvious chance today and to be fair to Dessie (Hughes), he has done well to get him here because he has had his fair share of injuries.
“Myself and Tom Doyle went as quick as we would have liked too, but at the same time my horse has a lot of energy and needs to be going a good gallop on heavy ground. He pulled out all the stops for me when I asked him. “Tofino Bay has plenty of age under his belt, so we can get stuck into him now over fences next season.”