Quevega survived a mistake at the last to win the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle at Punchestown on Thursday.
The brilliant mare Quevega held off stable mate Mourad by a length and a quarter to win the Grade 1 Hurdle for a second consecutive year.
“She’s just so athletic, nine out of 10 horses would have fallen there and I can’t believe she came back,” said trainer Willie Mullins, paying tribute to Quevega. “She barely missed a beat, rearranged herself and was galloping again in two strides. She just picked up and beat Mourad, who was flying and has really upped his game. She is an extraordinary mare. She is just about 16 hands but as strong as an ox.
“I’ve never seen anything like she did at the last today. In a competitive race to make a mistake like that and then in two strides be back up in running as if nothing had happened is incredible – I thought she was gone and Ruby (Walsh) did very well to stay on her. I thought Mourad would go past her but he never got an inch on her the whole way up the straight.
“I’m thinking about the French Champion Hurdle for her as a next run, there’s huge prize money out there, but she’ll be going the same route next season. I’m not tempted to take on Big Buck’s and she’ll go back to Cheltenham for the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle (which she has won three times). If you are lucky enough to have a favourite for any race at
Cheltenham then you run in that race, don’t you? But this mare will do it at two miles or three.
“Mourad has had a busier season so we may put him away although there’s a chance he might run on the Flat, there’s probably a nice handicap in him. But he’s definitely one for the World Hurdle next season.”
Just a short-head split the winner Another Jewel and runner-up Let The Show Begin after an epic four miles and a furlong of the Avon Ri Corporate & Leisure Resort Chase for the La Touche Cup over Punchestown’s unique banks course.
“That was very tense!,” said Denis Murphy, Another Jewel’s trainer. “We were unfortunate out there on Tuesday, when two of ours were in front turning in and went wide. I saw the Jewel slipping at the same point and I thought ‘not the same thing again!’ but we got away with it, thank God. He’s experienced around here and that’s a big help.
“John (Cullen) is very good – he knows him inside out and he won on him at Le Lion D’Angers last year. If everything is OK, the plan is to go back to France with him again. We will celebrate tonight and I couldn’t be happier. Let the party begin!”
Tony McCoy had his third success at this year’s Punchestown Festival when steering the Tom Mullins-trained Dr Whizz to a nine-length success in the Kildare Post Handicap Chase.
“He looked like a winner when he fell last time at Gowran Park and he just had to prove what he might have done today,” said Mullins. “He has been very well in himself and I’m not sure if he’ll go for another handicap now, as he won by nine lengths today.”
Owner J P McManus added: “He’s done it nicely in that class. He was a bit unlucky at Gowran Park but the fences are there to be jumped and he missed out on one. Tom and his staff had him looking great today and thankfully he delivered.
“A P (McCoy) seemed quite happy with – he said that he wasn’t quite sure how good he is, but he was good enough to win today.”
Trainer Thomond O’Mara landed the opening AON Hurdle when Tornedo Shay proved four lengths too good for his competition.
“I am delighted. It’s his first time over two and a half miles – he’s needed to go that far because of his jumping and he keeps pulling for his head over two miles. His jumping has really come together over this distance but he was always good horse who just needed to settle,” said O’Mara.
“He’s by Dr Fong out of a Nureyev mare, so the ground has made a difference to him. He’s also dropped down in class today – he’s been operating at Grade Two and Grade One level, so this was definitely a drop back in class. He’s done it well and this will be good for his confidence.
“Galway is definitely in the back of my mind, with the ground being better at that time of year. He could make it into a Galway Hurdle horse and we will probably give him a Flat campaign for the time being.”