Willie Mullins turned the tables on Gordon Elliott in spectacular fashion at Punchestown on Wednesday and is now the red-hot favourite to claim a 12th Irish trainers’ championship after an incredible six-timer.
Mullins started the Festival 521,413 euro behind his big rival and while a Tuesday treble reduced the deficit, the story of the opening day was Paul Townend’s huge error of judgement aboard Al Boum Photo in the Growise Champion Chase, which led to Elliott training the first three home.
With Elliott going on to enjoy another one-two-three in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper to take his lead back to 405,839 at the close of play, it looked as though that after his heartbreaking defeat in last year’s title race, this could be his year.
However, Mullins promised he would not give up his crown without a fight and roared back in scarcely believable fashion, highlighted by a one-two in the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup, and at the end of play he remarkably led by 48,161 euro.
Djakadam jumped superbly in front under the trainer’s son, Patrick, but ultimately had to make do with minor honours in the Gold Cup behind 4-1 Bellshill, the mount of the his nephew, David Mullins.
With the Mullins-trained Killultagh Vic also fifth, the trainer earned well over 200,000 euro in the race and in doing so reduced Elliott’s lead to 112,339 euro.
With only one race escaping his grasp on the afternoon, Mullins said: “It’s like fantasy racing.
“We’ve got a tremendous bunch of owners, a tremendous bunch of jockeys and I’ve tremendous stable staff so we’re delighted. Days like this put it all together.
“We’d a tremendous day yesterday, but it’s a really really tremendous day today.”
Asked if he had ever had six winners on one day, he said: “I don’t think so, no. I had to remember which fingers to put up for the photographers!
“It’s an extraordinary day. I don’t think I’ll get out of my local tonight!
“Punchestown has been good to us and today has been extraordinary.”
Mullins added of Bellshill: “He could be a Gold Cup horse. The performance he put up in Fairyhouse (placed fifth in Irish Grand National) was a Gold Cup performance in my book, and today has just confirmed that.”
Pravalaguna (11-4) and Townend set the Mullins machine in motion by winning the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle before he claimed the two other Grade Ones on the card.
On bagging a Grade One treble, Mullins said: “It’s extraordinary – fantastic, and three different riders.”
Next Destination (5-4) claimed his second top-level success of the season in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle under Townend, but at that stage Elliott still held sway by 340,589 euro.
However, following the Gold Cup domination and Tornado Flyer’s (12-1) success in the Racing Post Champion I.N.H. Flat Race – leading home a one-two-three for Mullins – the tables had well and truly turned and Mullins went into the final two races of the day just 30,339 behind.
Patricks Park and Townend – completing his hat-trick to banish the memories of Tuesday – brought up the five-timer in the Guinness Handicap Chase, which saw Mullins go 31,661 euro in front.
An outstanding day for the Mullins camp was rounded off by Colreevy, who justified 7-4 favouritism in the Weatherbys General Stud Book Irish EBF Mares Flat Race under Patrick Mullins.
The trainer said: “I can’t take it in. I’m just delighted. Everyone is getting a piece of the pie.”