Buveur D’Air ends a disappointing season by taking the Betdaq Champion Hurdle

Buveur D'Air in the winner's enclosure after the Betdaq Champion Hurdle at Punchestown. Credit: David Betts.

A spare ride for Youghal jockey Davy Russell, saw the Corkman claim the main race of Day 4 of the Punchestown Festival, as Buveur D’Air (2/1f) ran out an impressive winner of the Betdaq Champion Hurdle from 2018 victor Supasundae (9/2), as the Nicky Henderson-trained dual Champion hurdler at Cheltenham, got back to winning ways for the first time since February at Sandown.

Entering the home straight the big-priced Petit Mouchoir (33/1) held the rail under Bryan Cooper as the main challenge came from Melon (5/1), with the eventual winner Buveur D’Air between them, and Wicklow Brave (16/1) widest of the challengers. Russell’s mount jumped the final hurdle cleanly putting distance between himself and the rest of the field, lengthening his advantage as he headed for the finishing line. Robbie Power’s mount Supasundae stayed on for second as last year’s second, Wicklow Brave (16/1), ran on under Patrick Mullins for third.

Russell admitted a chance meeting with JP McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry secured the ride on Buveur D’Air when the unfortunate Mark Walsh was stood down after a fall early in the day:

“I bumped into Frank (Berry) and asked was he looking for someone. To get a spare like him, dual Champion Hurdle winner, was great. The game is so fickle. Look, it could be my turn tomorrow. Unfortunate for Mark, a fantastic rider.”

The second Grade 1 went for export as Aintree Grade 1 winner last time Reserve Tank (13/2) from Colin Tizzard’s yard held off the very late challenge of Mouse Morris’ Sams Profile (6/1) as jockey Davy Russell failed by just half a length to claim a double at the highest level.

Royal Rendezvous under Patrick Mullins, returning after a six-month absence, made most of the running until being swarmed-up down the back-straight and eventually tailed off. The Willie Mullins pair, Eglantine Du Seuil (14/1) and Tornado Flyer (6/1), the eventual third and fourth-placed horses, and Dommage Pour Toi (20/1), didn’t have any more to give but Russell got one final run out of his mount, Sams Profile, being finally denied by a narrowing half-length at the post.

The British-trained Caid Du Berlais (3/1 2f) successfully defended his The Star Best For Racing Coverage Champion Hunters Steeplechase as he came home in splendid isolation 28 lengths ahead of Burning Ambition (4/1). Fenno’s Storm (10/1) and Macs Legend (50/1) were the only other finishers in an energy-sapping race.

Caid Du Berlais, who disappointed at the Cheltenham Festival in March when pulled up in the Foxhunters’ Chase behind winner Hazel Hill, blew away his rivals as he had done 12 months ago. Once the bay gelded son of Westerner took up the lead he failed to see another rival as one by one the challenge failed to materialise, including that of the well-back 7/4f Stand Up And Fight who was pulled up.

The Niall Redmond-ridden Flirting Leasa (14/1) thwarted the five-runner strong hand of Peter Maher in the opener, the KFM Hunters Steeplechase for the Bishopscourt Cup, a race restricted to horses owned by farmers in the Kildare Hunt Club district. Alpha Male (11/8f) was the best of Maher’s contingent three-lengths behind the winner, with the 14 years young Enniskillen a further seven-lengths back in third.

Champion jockey-elect Paul Townend won an eventful 12-runner EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase with Real Steel when, by staying in contention for the lead throughout the contest, he avoided the melée four fences out. The winner was another success for Willie Mullins who is having an incredible Punchestown this week. Gordon Elliott’s Hardline (7/1) took the runner-up position ahead of Henry De Bromhead’s Poker Party (8/1) in third, with only five horses successfully completing the course.

Tipperary handler Denis Hogan trained and rode the winner of the Hanlon Concrete Irish EBF Glencarrig Lady Francis Flood Handicap Steeplechase over 2m 5f, Moyhenna (5/1). The bay daughter of Westerner was a four-and-a-half-length victor over Timeforwest (7/1) with the 2/1f Ask Susan a further ten lengths back in third place.

The Sales Sense International Novice Hurdle over 2 miles went the way of the former Ballydoyle inmate Gardens Of Babylon (5/2), with Derek O’Connor in the saddle deputising for Mark Walsh. The four-year-old bay gelding by Camelot, came wide to claim the win as the front-running Breaken (20/1) with Paul  Townend faded. The Gigginstown House-owned Notebook, who challenged entering the home straight, took second, with Pat Fahy’s Dunvegan (6/1) third.

Longhouse Poet (6/1), ridden by Derek O’Connor for Martin Brassil, claimed the finale, the GVA Dónal Ó Buachalla Property Advisors Flat Race, ahead of the £235,000 purchase Monkfish (5/2f).

Today’s attendance: 32,567.

2018 attendance: 32,082.

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