The Willie Mullins-trained Penhill became the first horse to win the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and the Grade 1 Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle following an impressive success under Paul Townend in the three-mile championship event.
The 12/1 shot travelled sweetly throughout and after winging the final flight, he kept on tenaciously to master Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae (6/1) and score by two lengths. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Wholestone (14/1) stayed on well to finish a further three lengths behind in third.
Mullins, registering his sixth winner of the week and his 60th success at The Festival overall, drawing him level with Nicky Henderson as The Festival’s winning-most trainer, said:
“Penhill must have some engine. I could not believe it watching Paul come down the outside and I thought wow – if he fluffs the last then he could blow up and fall in a hole, but he met the last perfectly and then I thought Supasundae would out gallop him but he kept on powerfully.”
The domination of The Festival 2018 by two Irish trainers – Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott – was further proven when Mullins won his seventh race of this year’s meeting, the Grade 2 Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, with Laurina.
The 4/7 favourite delivered one of the performances of this year’s Festival with a facile 18-length success, maintaining Mullins’ unbeaten record in the two-mile contest since its inception (Limini 2016 and Let’s Dance 2017) and making Ireland’s champion National Hunt trainer the winning-most trainer at The Festival with 61 triumphs.
Mullins said: “It’s unbelievable. When you start training you hope for one winner here – that is the greatest aspiration that most Irish trainers have. This isn’t something we ever dreamt of because we thought we couldn’t do that with a base in Ireland.
“Laurina is a fine, big mare. We’ve always thought she was very, very decent. If they ever ran a mare’s chase here at The Festival, she’d be the sort you’d want for it. Her two runs at home have been very good here but to do that here… There’s a mare’s race at Fairyhouse at Easter, so if she recovers enough she might go there. This mare has more size and scope than either of my previous winners of this race, Limini or Let’s Dance.”
The Warren Greatrex-trained Missed Approach denied the Irish a record breaking clean-sweep of all seven races on St Patrick’s Thursday, day three of the 2018 Festival, with a magnificent front-running performance under Noel McParlan to land the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase over three miles and two furlongs.
The 8/1 shot produced a fine leap at the final fence and kept on tenaciously up the hill to score by half-a-length from the well-supported Mall Dini (4/1f) in second.