Incident-packed first day at Punchestown could be key to title battle

‘This title is going to the wire’

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Willie Mullins endured an up and down day to say the least at Punchestown in his bid to overhaul Gordon Elliott and win another Irish trainers’ championship.

Mullins started proceedings 521,413 euro behind Elliott and ended on 405,839 – but after an early domination of events saw the deficit vastly reduced and momentum building, a chaotic finish to the Growise Champion Novice Chase could prove pivotal in the final reckoning.

Un De Sceaux had left champion Mullins smiling following the feature BoyleSports Champion Chase, but Paul Townend inexplicably throwing away what looked certain victory aboard Al Boum Photo put a different look on things.

As Townend elected to chart what proved an errant path in the Grade One contest, The Storyteller was left clear to lead home a one-two-three for Elliott – his second of the day.

Elliott said: “This title is going to go to the wire. It’s great for the game, but it’s not good for my heart anyway.

“It’s going to be ding dong for the week and it just shows what can happen.”

Un De Sceaux and Patrick Mullins, meanwhile, had seen off odds-on stablemate Douvan to take the Champion Chase by two and three-quarter lengths at 9-2 – at that stage cutting the Elliott lead almost in half, at 226,714 euro.

Mullins had struck the first blow through Draconien in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle. The 25-1 chance saw off British raider Vision Des Flos, with Mullins and Elliott filling the minor places.

Mullins then wasted little time in further reducing the deficit, as True Self and Rachael Blackmore lifted the Killashee Handicap Hurdle.

Mullins said: “Rachael is a good jockey, she’s not a lady jockey, she’s a good jockey.”

Elliott had got on the board with a clean sweep in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper, led by Commander Of Fleet (5-1).

Elliott claimed some place money with a fourth and fifth in the concluding bumper, in which Mullins was not represented.

Incident-packed first day at Punchestown could be key to title battle
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