Un De Sceaux, a stalwart of the Willie Mullins stable for the last six seasons, produced a ruthless display of jumping and galloping to beat his stable companion Min in Tuesday’s Champion Chase, the feature event on the first day of the Punchestown Festival.
Racegoers were forced to shelter from persistent rain for much of the afternoon but every drop increased the chance that Un De Sceaux would be a serious opponent for Min, who set off as the 8-13 favourite after a wide-margin Grade One win at Aintree this month.
Un De Sceaux was the second-favourite at 11-4 and, though he is now in the twilight of an outstanding career, the 11-year-old was soon in front and did not give Ruby Walsh, on Min, the slightest hint of an opening to make up some ground.
Min was slow six out and again three fences later and he could make no impression as Paul Townend opened the throttle on Un De Sceaux, going to the second-last before galloping on strongly for a four-length success.
Un De Sceaux has now registered at least one Grade One win in each of the last five seasons and has 10 victories at the highest level in all including Cheltenham Festival successes in the Arkle Trophy and Ryanair Chase.
“It’s unbelievable the energy he has and he comes out with that every morning,” Mullins said. “I’ve never had a horse with his enthusiasm; he just loves it. Paul thought he was dead underneath him at the start but the minute he faced him for the tape he came alive. He said he was a passenger for three-quarters of the way but that’s a great feeling for a jockey, being on a machine like that and jumping so well.”
Klassical Dream, another Mullins-trained winner on the opening day, is just a couple of points behind Espoir D’Allen in the betting for next year’s Champion Hurdle after following up his victory at Cheltenham with another impressive success in the Grade One Champion Novice Hurdle.
12.00 Bahango 12.30 Lydiate Lady 1.00 Mujassam 1.30 Cliff Bay 2.00 Ollivander 2.35 Gunnabedun 3.10 Itchingham Lofte
2.15 Lady Pauline 2.50 Queen Power 3.25 Dee Ex Bee 3.55 Calyx 4.25 Barney Roy 5.00 Daschas (nap) 5.35 Merchant Of Venice (nb)
2.25 Xcelente 3.00 Desert Icon 3.35 Seaborough 4.10 Kripke 4.45 Socialites Red 5.15 Lady Calcaria 5.50 Zapper Cass
4.35 Hanakotoba 5.10 Paper Star 5.45 Tigerfish 6.15 Sashenka 6.50 Adelante 7.25 Rivas Rob Roy 7.55 Who Told Jo Jo
4.50 Tinto 5.25 Out Of Breath 6.00 Ever Rock 6.30 Rocksette 7.00 Smart Champion 7.35 Singing The Blues 8.10 Nahham
The five-year-old was cut from a top price of 9-1 to 7-1 for the Champion Hurdle, a market headed by this year’s winner Espoir D’Allen at 5-1.
Mullins fielded Getabird against Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work, the favourite, in search of a Grade One treble in the Champion Novice Chase but the market leader proved much too strong as he cruised to a 12-length success. Delta Work was cut from 20-1 to 10-1 by Paddy Power for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.