Difference in total prize-money between Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins is €286,780, which looks like we will have a new winner of the trainers title in Elliot.
The Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John (9/10 Fav) came out best in a fabulous renewal of the Grade 1 €250,000 CORAL PUNCHESTOWN GOLD CUP to become the first horse to win the Punchestown showpiece, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
The 2015 Cheltenham hero Coneygree boldly tried to make the running but he was passed in the straight with Sizing John eventually holding off Djakadam to win by a short-head.
“I didn’t think he was going as well as at Cheltenham. He jumped the second last a bit slow but showed real guts to get up. Robbie (Power) is riding out of his skin at the moment,” said Harrington. “He’s the first horse I’ve run in the three Gold Cups, let alone winning them.
“His guts and class won him the race. I kept saying to my daughter Emma during the race that he wouldn’t win because Coneygree had gone too far ahead.
“He pulled off a front shoe as well which probably didn’t help. A lot of things went against him today. He is going on his holidays now.”
Power added: “There was no hiding place out there, as you would expect with Coneygree in the field. And full credit to his connections because he has run some race after a long lay-off.
“I was never that happy. Sizing John was off the bridle and felt a bit flat to tell you the truth. He was a bit slow at the second last but got his head down afterwards. He had a hard race in Cheltenham and, full credit to the horse, he is only a seven-year-old and dug deep when he had to.
“I was all out and he is just a very good horse. He has earned a good break over the summer and we can work a plan out for next season.”
Djakadam’s trainer Willie Mullins said: “He just gave the last fence a nudge but it was a tremendous race. Jessie is in such good form that she can’t be beaten at the moment. It looked like we might be getting up on the line but I have no complaints.”
Coneygree finished third and his trainer Mark Bradstock said: “Coneygree is a dude. Let’s just hope he is sound tomorrow. That is the main thing. He is a pretty special horse. He just pecked on landing at the second last and, having had a long time off, you don’t need that. He has got a very deceptive gallop as all the jockeys behind will tell you. It was an awesome run.”
Michael O’Leary described Champagne Classic as the worst horse he had in training when winning the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham last month but he will have to revise that assessment.
The six-year-old (14/1) took the Grade 1 IRISH DAILY MIRROR NOVICE HURDLE to increase trainer Gordon Elliott’s lead in the championship.
“He’s not too bad a horse,” said Elliott. “He stays well and jumps well and I think he enjoys this better ground – his best runs have come on it at Cheltenham and here. His future is definitely over fences.”
O’Leary added: “That’s not bad from the worst horse I have! I’m going to start insulting my horses more as it seems to stimulate them.”
Jockey Bryan Cooper added: “Champagne Classic did it well. To be fair, the better ground has definitely brought out the best in him.
“Gordon prepped him really well. He was a good winner at the Cheltenham Festival and has made the step up to Grade One company and done it well. He is fantastic horse and to have won a Grade One as well as a race at Cheltenham is great placing by Gordon.”
Elliott’s championship rival Willie Mullins saddled a 1-2 in the LOUIS FITZGERALD HURDLE when C’Est Jersey (7/1) came home ahead of Battleford (6/4 Fav).
“Blinkers made a huge difference to C’Est Jersey. He needs three miles every day of the week but the blinkers have just made that much difference to him,” said Mullins. “Both horses will be nice staying hurdlers next season.”
Jockey Ryan Treacy left it late to get Magic Of Light (11/1) up on the line to win the opening MARTINSTOWN OPPORTUNITY SERIES FINAL HANDICAP HURDLE by a head for owner/trainer Jessica Harrington.
“She has improved for the better ground,” said Harrington. “She jumped great and was just getting there at the end. I’ve been running her on the wrong ground and I think she wants three miles.
“I did not think she would get in because she was twelfth on the ballot list but when she did I said ‘let’s run her.’
“It is great for Ryan because he comes down and rides out for me one day a week. I am delighted for him to get a Punchestown winner.”
Ryan Treacy added: “That was great. Fair play to Mrs Harrington for giving me the ride. I go in there one day a week and am very grateful for the opportunity.
“In these races there is normally carnage at the start because everyone wants to be handy and I could hear a lot of roaring behind me. I got a lovely run up the inside and knew I was in the right place all the way. This is my first festival winner – it’s brilliant.”
The superb mare Fayonagh (11/8 Fav) added to her victory in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham when running out a gutsy winner of the RACING POST CHAMPION INH FLAT RACE.
The victory bolstered Gordon Elliott’s championship hopes and the trainer said: “She’s a really good mare. She’s buzzy at home and I don’t gallop her much. I expect we’ll put her away now, give her a nice holiday and go jumping next season. The plan had been to be in the first three at Cheltenham (when she was left at the start) but it didn’t work out. Things went better today.”
Rider Jamie Codd found the mare for owner Maura Gittins and he was in the saddle for this success.
“They say when you have a good mare, you should keep a hold of her and God we are lucky to have this one. Fayonagh is a real gem. She’s exceptional – this is a great era for fillies and she’s one of the best,” said Codd.
“She got a fright at the start in Cheltenham. The boys came around her and bullied her basically. Today was a different story. She is out of Solerina’s pedigree and likes to do her own thing.
“I had the opportunity when I started off to ride all of Willie Mullins’ for three or four years and now I am riding a few for Gordon. You want to be riding good horses and I am delighted to be a part of the whole thing.”
Codd was again on the mark when seeing off Patrick Mullins, his rival for the amateur championship, to win the WEATHERBYS GENERAL STUD BOOK EBF MARES FLAT RACE.
Codd steered Minutestomidnight (11/4 Fav) to come out in front of Mullins’ mount Mystic Theatre. The winner is entered in tomorrow’s Goffs Sale after racing at Punchestown.
A great week continued for owners Alan and Ann Potts along with trainer Colin Tizzard when they had a 1-2 in the GUINNESS HANDICAP CHASE. Sizing Granite (14/1) came home five lengths ahead of stablemate Viconte Du Noyer.
“When Sizing Granite first came to me he just wasn’t going up the gallops. We gave him a wind operation and tried everything then suddenly in the last three weeks he’s been working brilliantly,” said Tizzard. “Sometimes you just don’t know where it has come from.
“Sizing Granite didn’t go a yard at Cheltenham and Viconte Du Noyer bled, but then in the last few weeks they have really picked up. We worked them quite hard as you can’t bring horses here half-cooked. They have just come to themselves.”