Mullins savours family fortunes as punters rue big losses

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The Independent Online

A card engorged to 10 races made it possible for one punter to lament that he had just had his worst ever Festival – in one afternoon. By the time they reached the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, the track was disappearing into murky dusk, and likewise the solvency of some desperate men.

The Irish have always dominated this race, above all through Willie Mullins, and punters piled recklessly into two of the raiders. One was Zaarito, much the most common whisper, and the other Apt Approach, on the assumption that the booking of Ruby Walsh identified him as the pick of Mullins' four runners.

But blood is thicker than water, and Mullins had put his son, Patrick, on Cousin Vinny for a reason. Only 18, Patrick was sitting mock exams at school last week, but here he coolly met a genuine test, holding his mount together as they galloped clear of Corskeagh Royale and Zaarito.

"I wouldn't have swapped my lad for any of the other three," he said. "He travelled unreal and at the top of the hill I thought: 'How far is this going to win?'"

His proud father pointed out that Patrick's height makes it unlikely he will be able to take such opportunities for more than a couple of years, so he was thrilled to have given him a Festival winner on only his second ride. "This horse showed a lot of toe to win at Punchestown," he said. "So I thought that if Patrick could steer him, his finishing kick might make the difference."

Remarkably, this was the trainer's sixth success in the bumper. Evan Williams was celebrating his first Festival win of any description when High Chimes, well ridden by James Tudor, won the Fulke Walwyn Chase for amateurs, but it will not be the last for the talented Welshman.

"It's fair to say I'm somewhat emotional here," Williams said. "James has been with me from the start, and the owners, Mr and Mrs Rucker, have supported me. In fact, Mrs Rucker's mother was the first person to send me a horse. People like that are the bedrock. It's all down to teamwork. I can't do it on my own. This horse could be a National type some day."

The nadir for many punters came in the Racing Post Plate, where Mister McGoldrick, apparently the most exposed horse in the field, not only won at 66-1 but bolted up. The veteran is nowadays seen as a Wetherby specialist, but his trainer, Sue Smith, defended his right to run well here. "He was third in the Champion Chase a couple of years ago," she said, "and hasn't run a bad race all season."

Mister McGoldrick, who paid 146-1 on the Tote, was a first Festival winner for jockey Dominic Elsworth.

Paddy Brennan, who was riding Inglis Drever last year, sealed his thriving new partnership with Nigel Twiston-Davies – himself on course for his best season – when Ballyfitz won the Pertemps Final.

The Irish v The British

12.30 Peter O'Sullevan National Hunt Chase. Winner Old Benny (British).

1.05 Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Chase. Winner Albertas Run (British).

1.40 Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase. Winner Finger Onthe Pulse (Irish).

2.20 Queen Mother Champion Chase. Winner Master Minded (British).

2.55 Ryanair Chase. Winner Our Vic (British).

3.30 World Hurdle. Winner Inglis Drever (British).

4.05 Racing Post Plate Handicap Chase. Winner Mister McGoldrick (British).

4.40 Pertemps Hurdle. Winner Ballyfitz (British).

5.15 Fulke Walwyn/Kim Muir Handicap Chase. Winner High Chimes (British).

4.00 Champion Bumper. Winner Cousin Vinny (Irish).

After two days: Britain 12 Ireland 4.