Punchestown Champion Stayers hat-trick for Klassical Dream

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Willie Mullins' dominance in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle continued as Klassical Dream became only the third horse to win the Punchestown contest three or more times. The winner in both 2021 and 2022, Klassical Dream had a point to prove having flopped at Cheltenham when only ninth in the Stayers' Hurdle last month. However, he silenced the doubters under a cool ride from Paul Townend to strike at the Punchestown Festival for the fourth time overall and give the master of Closutton his 10th victory in the three-mile Grade One. There was little change in the order for the most part as Summerville Boy led the field along with Klassical Dream and Townend content to bide their time towards rear. Things began to hot up when Sire Du Berlais took closer order after four out and sensing an opportunity to seal a unique Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown treble, Mark Walsh sent Gordon Elliott's evergreen 11-year-old for home after two out, rounding the final bend. It momentarily looked like Walsh's enterprise could pay off, but Klassical Dream was moving stealthily onto his tail under a motionless Paul Townend. There was three in a line jumping the final flight as Klassical Dream, Asterion Forlonge and Sire Du Berlais all left the ground in unison, but on landing it was the Closutton hat-trick seeker who edged his way to the front and he stuck on gamely to hold off his rallying rivals and come home half a length to the good from Asterion Forlonge with Sire Du Berlais a neck away. "Paul was so cool on him. He was out the back and the minute he got a bit of daylight he locked on and I thought 'wow this is it'. It was a masterclass in riding again," said Mullins. "I'm a bit worried now as going celebrating with Jo (Coleman, owner) is no simple task! We have good nights. "I think we'll bring him to Auteuil again. We had a good time there last year (finished second) and a weekend in Paris is never a bad thing. "Asterion Forlonge ran a cracker and stayed on great at the end. I think hurdling is just too fast for Monkfish, he wants slower ground and bigger fences to maximise jumping." Townend said: "His record here is very good. We just held on. I was trying to leave it late and I still managed to get there too soon. "He hasn't had the most straightforward of season and all credit to Dave (Casey, assistant trainer) and the gang at home for getting him back here in such good form on that bit of nice ground. "I was always going to give him the chance to use his speed and take the criticism if I didn't get there. I thought I'd the quickest horse and I was going to give him every chance. I wasn't going to get involved that far from home. "It's easy riding for Willie in Punchestown. We've had a brilliant season and it's nice to be a part of this massive team - a small part of it - to round of the season here in Punchestown."

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