Punchestown Day Three: Elliott v Mullins, the latest on the trainers' championship

Grand National runner-up Bless The Wings
Bless The Wings gives Gordon Elliott a leading chance in the La Touche Cup over the cross-country fences.
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After some misfortune on Tuesday, Willie Mullins had pretty much everything go right yesterday with a six-timer and goes into Day Three leading the trainers' championship. Tony Keenan looks at what today has in store...

"Thursday looks like one of those days where Elliott may need favours from other yards to help keep him within touching distance of Mullins ahead of his big fancies– Samcro, Apple’s Jade and Farclas – at the end of the week."

Total Prizemoney

Gordon Elliott - €5,013,689
Willie Mullins - €5,061,850
Difference - €48,161 (Elliott led by €405,839 after Day One)

Betting (with the Exchange)

Willie Mullins - [1.18] (1/10 on Sportsbook)
Gordon Elliott - [6.0] (5/1 on Sportsbook)

What happened yesterday?

'What a difference a day makes' roared Dessie Scahill as Paul Townend got Next Destination over the line in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle and that comment applied as much to Willie Mullins as the rider himself as the 11-time champion trainer wrested back the lead with a total prizemoney swing of €454,000 on the day.

After the phoney war of the opening two races, Next Destination holding Delta Work by a neck mattered and better was to come for Team Closutton as Bellshill and Djakadam formed a one-two in the Gold Cup, the former again proving himself a force away from Cheltenham and Leopardstown, the latter coming second in the race for the fourth consecutive year.

That was followed by a one-two-three in the Champion Bumper though not in the order most expected, the least fancied of the Mullins' quartet Tornado Flyer winning at a Betfair SP of 16.28 with the strong-travelling favourite Blackbow hitting a low of [1.16] in-running. Victories for Patricks Park - aided by a less-than-willing Blast Of Koeman in second - and the impressive Colreevy merely put the bow on top of a six-timer for Mullins and left him in a strong position going into Day Three.

Willie Mullins - Thursday runners: 32

Lareena (the decent one, not to be confused with the top-class Laurina) and Bon Papa give the championship leader good chances in the opening handicaps though with fields of 25 and 24 runners respectively the yard is likely going into those races with hope more than expectation. Nothing less than a winner in the Champion Stayers Hurdle will be acceptable however with six runners in the field; Penhill and Bacardys hold particularly strong claims with Faugheen upped in trip in the hope the fire can be reignited.

Numbers more than quality seems to be the modus operandi for Mullins in the Alanna Homes Handicap Hurdle at 18:05 with five engaged, none set to go off much shorter than double figures though perhaps Didero Vallis will belatedly show three miles is his trip. Footpad is the banker however in the 18:40 and will be very hard to stop if over whatever caused the unsatisfactory scope that ruled him out of Aintree; Daryl Jacob takes over for the first time since he rode him to win his chase debut at Navan.

The final two races are minor in the grand scheme of things with prizemoney funds of €32,500 and €17,500 but again the strength seems all with Mullins; he has won the mares' novice hurdle thrice since 2013 with the closing bumper going to him five times since 2009.

Gordon Elliott -Thursday runners: 15

Thursday looks like one of those days where Elliott may need favours from other yards to help keep him within touching distance of Mullins ahead of his big fancies - Samcro, Apple's Jade and Farclas - at the end of the week. Sunsetstorise gives him a fighting chance in the 16:15 however and he should be suited by going back in distance having seemingly failed to get home over an extended 2m6f last time.

He won't lose any ground on Mullins in the La Touche at least as the champion has no runner but Grand National second Bless The Wings should go well if he is over his Aintree exertions. The Elliott hand in the Stayers' Hurdle is weak with Diamond Cauchois and Lieutenant Colonel his runners; he will be looking for the likes of Identity Thief and La Bague Au Roi to get amongst the places and deny Mullins more prizemoney.

Glenloe and Folsom Blue are a decent one-two punch in the staying handicap hurdle; Glenloe should have won the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham and that form was boosted yesterday while Folsom Blue shaped well on his last hurdles start at Sandown behind Coral Cup runner-up Topofthegame. After that though things could be a struggle; Elliott has no runner against Footpad and his runners in the final two races are relatively unfancied in the early markets.


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