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Teahupoo crowned Punchestown staying king with stylish success

Also on the card, Il Etait Temps stunned stablemate Gaelic Warrior in the closing stages to land the Barberstown Castle Novice Chase and Singing Banjo hit the right notes in the Cross-Country chase...

Team Teahupoo celebrate at Punchestown
Image: Team Teahupoo celebrate at Punchestown

Teahupoo cemented his position at the top of the staying hurdling tree with a devastating display in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown.

Gordon Elliott's charge could only finish fourth when 3-1 joint-favourite for the race 12 months ago - but victory this year could have been called a long way from home as the seven-year-old was ridden with supreme confidence by Jack Kennedy.

The 5-6 favourite travelled menacingly throughout the contest before putting the race to bed with ease once entering the straight, seeing off the enigmatic Asterion Forlonge by six-and-a-half lengths.

It is the first time this century the winner of the equivalent race at the Cheltenham Festival has followed up at the Punchestown Festival and the Robcour-owned stayer finishes the season unbeaten having successfully defended his Hatton's Grace crown in early December.

He has been trimmed to 5-2 favourite from 3s to repeat his Stayers' Hurdle heroics at Prestbury Park next March and for now appears an unstoppable force over three miles and timber.

A delighted Elliott said: "It was great for the horse and great for Jack, he has a big battle (jockeys' title with Paul Townend) and it's going to be a long tough week.

"He said he was stuck in a bit of a pocket behind Paul and he had to get out. He said the ground might be as quick as he wants it, but he was very good. He's a great horse."

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Owner Brian Acheson added: "My main thing is about the horse because all the doubters from last year are now put to bed, and it's great for Jack. I was really worried coming here because the horse didn't let himself down on the ground last year.

"He was Robbie Power's last ride here in the Champion Hurdle and finished last and I was thinking if it would be in the horse's head. They are emotive creatures and they do remember stuff. By God did he give a performance today and I'm delighted.

"It's petrifying, it's torture, because you want the horse to show everybody how good they are.

"That's really important for Jack, but Paul Townend isn't going away."

Barberstown Castle Novice Chase

Il Etait Temps claimed another top-level prize when prevailing in the Barberstown Castle Novice Chase at Punchestown.

The six-year-old came into the race on the back of a successful season, within which he has won the Irish Arkle, finished third in the Arkle itself and then claimed the Manifesto Chase at Aintree last time out.

Danny Mullins celebrates aboard Il Etait Temps...
Image: Danny Mullins celebrates aboard Il Etait Temps...

Despite that he was not the favourite to strike again at Grade One level as his stablemate Gaelic Warrior took that status as the first horse home when the two met in the Arkle at Cheltenham in March.

In a small field the four challengers travelled closely before outsider Mount Frisco fell away, leaving three Willie Mullins-trained geldings to fight it out.

Il Etait Temps (7/2) was the one who came off best, claiming a two-and-a-quarter-length victory under Danny Mullins.

"He's an extraordinary horse, that's his third Grade One this year," said the Closutton trainer.

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"He doesn't look like a big steeplechaser, but he's got an engine and he jumps well. He's just maturing and learning all the time.

"He's getting a lot easier to ride. He has a good and a tongue-tie and that's to keep the revs low on him. It's working and we'll keep them on him for the time being anyway.

"I'd imagine he'll stay at the two-mile division until we think that he's too slow, possibly on ground that he likes better.

"He's a horse that I won't mind going up in trip with and he could easily slot into being a Ryanair horse."

The result was a record 35th Grade One of the season for the all-conquering Mullins, who added: "We've an incredible team of owners and staff and the horses come if you have both of those."

Casa No Mento a famous Punchestown winner for Twiston-Davies

There was a raiding success for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies at the Punchestown Festival as Casa No Mento toughed it out to land a blow in the Close Brothers Mares Novice Hurdle.

The only horse able to claim Casa No Mento's scalp this season is Harry Derham's Queens Gamble and she was sent off a 4/1 chance for this Listed event as connections looked to join fellow British trainer Tom Lacey on the week's scoresheet.

Leading the field into the home straight she pulled out all the stops to hold off Willie Mullins' Got Glory, finding extra when it mattered to strike by a length and three-quarters.

"She's exceptional. She is the only horse I've ever seen that can work with I Like To Move It," said Willy Twiston-Davies, who is assistant to his father.

"We got dropped 2lb after getting beat by Queens Gamble and we were a bit disappointed, but Sam said she wasn't herself. She's three from four over hurdles and is the fastest filly we've ever had.

"I asked him if it was worth bringing her over and he said she had every chance so a bit of the credit must go to him!"

He went on: "We've always thought she's very good and she proved that today. I think she'll be better again on faster ground.

"It's quite fun coming over here and beating the Irish. We had a second at Fairyhouse and dad said to me 'what are you doing running another one at Punchestown?'.

"We have to come over a give it a go. Willie had five in, but you have to try to beat him. She's a good mare and she deserves to be there. She's no Lossiemouth, but she's very good in her own right and we'll enjoy today."

Singing Banjo hits the right notes

Veteran campaigner Singing Banjo came to the fore to take the Mongey Communications La Touche Cup Cross Country Chase at Punchestown for the second time.

The 14-year-old is a veritable specialist around the banks course, having won the race in 2021 as part of a famous double that also included the Ladies Perpetual Cup.

Singing Banjo got the job done at Punchestown
Image: Singing Banjo got the job done at Punchestown

He has plenty of other form around the track, too, but as the oldest horse in the race and with highly-rated rivals like Coko Beach in the field, he started at modest odds of 28/1 for trainer and jockey Barry John Walsh.

His experience served him well, however, and after locking horns with Coko Beach and Three By Two he stayed on best of all triumph by three-quarters of a length.

"He just stays galloping all day, he needs a trip," said Walsh, for whom the success was his first as a trainer.

"He got hampered a little bit at the old double, it wasn't ideal but he was hard and finished out strong.

"He loves the banks and we aim him for these races the whole time. The ground was just against us all season, he wants good ground.

"He won on firm here when taking the Ladies Cup and La Touche in one week. I was delighted to see it drying a bit here yesterday.

"He's lightly-raced and we'll see how he comes out of this. He's declared for Saturday and we'll see tomorrow how he is.

"We'd be hoping to get another season out of him for the cross-country, maybe at Cheltenham if the ground comes up good."

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