Great FIeld leaps clear and mighty at the last at Punchestown
Image by www.healyracing.ie

Great Field ran his rivals ragged with a blistering performance in the Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown this evening.

Eight horses went to post for this two mile contest, bidding to add their names to a list of winners including Un De Sceaux and Douvan in recent years.

At the off it was the free-running Great Field who went off in front of Ordinary World and Townshend.

At the first fence Great Field was six lengths clear of Ordinary World and Powersbomb and Townshend.

The unbeaten Great Field and Jody McGarvey, who had fallen in the previous race, continued to set a strong gallop and lead by several lengths from Powersbomb, with Ordinary World next and then Ballyoisin and Townshend.

Five out and Great Field continued to lead well while stable mate Townshend was a faller.

However, Powersbomb closed notably turning to the fourth last, with Ballyoisin and Ordinary World also a lot closer.

Three out and Great Field had opened up again and turned for home with a four length advantage with Ballyoisin and Ordinary World trying to close.

Great Field did not get too high two out as Ordinary World closed but again he opened up most impressively heading to the last, skipping over it and going well clear for a most impressive victory.

Ordinary World kept on gamely but had no answer to the winner, with Ball D’Arc coming home a never nearer third, ahead of Listen Dear.

Ballyoisin took a nasty fall at the last fence and the hampered Baily Cloud unshipped his rider. After a delay the stricken horse was thankfully to his feet.

It transpired after the race that the tack had greatly shifted on the winner, making his performance all the more commendable.

The six year old Great Field was helping Willie Mullins to close markedly on Gordon Elliott in the Champion Trainer Championship.

Despite it looking straightforward McGarvey explained there was the odd moment of doubt.

McGarvey said: “My saddle had slipped going to the second-last. He can give one or two a rub, got in a bit tight to one and it brought the girth with him.

“I was just hoping it would stay intact until I got over the last, so it was a sigh of relief to say the least when we got away safely.

“What a horse and what an engine, nothing beats this, a couple of times I was long but he came up. He has his own way of doing it, but he was rock solid on his feet. I’m very lucky.

“It’s the best feeling in the world, I’ll go a while before something tops that.

“At the start of the year I was only hoping for a ride at the Festivals, I never dreamt I’d be coming here riding an odds-on shot for Willie Mullins in a Grade One.”

“Jody and he make a great team. Jody was very brave and the horse responded. He’s a horse with a super engine, he loves jumping and obviously has huge talent,” said Mullins. “He was just getting into a nice rhythm. There was less worry today than other days and that was probably due to the better ground.
“When he jumped clear you could really see him for what he is. We always thought he was a fantastic horse and were disappointed when he pulled up at Cheltenham last year.
         
“He’s obviously a nice horse for the future and we’ll talk to J P (McManus) and Frank (Berry) about what they want to do. They have a lot of horses so they need to keep them apart.”
Mullins saddled a 1-2-3 in the ALANNA HOMES MARES NOVICE HURDLE when Asthuria came home five lengths clear of Pravalaguna. It was a belated first success of the Festival for Ruby Walsh and left Mullins €129,455 behind Gordon Elliott in the Irish trainers’ championship battle.
“We’ve been hitting the crossbar all week but one or two are starting to go in so fingers crossed,” said Mullins. “We’ll keep going until we cross the line but I think (the Elliott-trained) Apple’s Jade might put paid to it on Saturday.”
Walsh commented: “We have always felt she was a good mare. She went a good gallop and jumped brilliant. I suppose she was getting a bit empty at the last and clipped the top and I was thinking, with the way the week has been, she was going to tip over but she stood up and kept going well to win.
“We have been coming slap back off the crossbar every time – Un De Sceaux ran a blinder, Melon ran a blinder – I would not mind another go on him to do it tactically different but you have to ride each race as it is. Djakadam ran his heart out but just missed the last, while Nichols Canyon was in front two strides down. They are just the big pots and show the bit of luck this team needs. But we are within shooting distance (of Gordon Elliott).”
 
A red-letter day for trainer Harry Fry and jockey Noel Fehily continued when Minella Awards finished a length in front of No Comment (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson) to take the 25-runner Grade B SHAMROCK ENTERPRISES HANDICAP HURDLE over three miles. 
“What a 40 minutes! This horse is new to us this season and we felt he would improve in the spring,” said Fry. “I am delighted for Michael Masterson and his family. He is brilliant to train for. He has left me alone and been as patient as they come and allowed me to get this horse right. He has got his rewards today.
“Michael said to take our time and he has been rewarded with good wins at Sandown and here. I don’t know how he wasn’t brought down at the first and Noel arrived just at the right time
“Noel is a huge part of our success and we wouldn’t be where we are without him. We wouldn’t have achieved what we have without him.”
Fehily added: “I was very lucky at the first as one came down right in front of me and I just missed it. After that, I was cantering everywhere. It was a great performance.
“What a trainer Harry Fry is to produce them on the big day. Unbelievable. This fella was beaten by the second at Plumpton earlier in the season and Harry kept saying to me that he wasn’t right. He said he needed to wait until the spring as the warm weather will bring him on and how right he has been proved.
“It is great riding winners at all the festivals, but it is great come home and ride winners at the Punchestown Festival. I enjoyed that.”
The winner carries the green and red colours of Co Mayo-born and British-based Michael Masterson. “Punchestown is a lucky place for me and I actually prefer it to Cheltenham. We’ve had runners for the last four or five years and had a bit of success with the likes of Fletchers Flyer last year. Harry’s a great trainer,” said Masterson.
 
J P McManus enjoyed a fourth victory of the day when the Dead Right (Neil Mulholland/ Mr John J O’Neill) won well from the Mullins-trained Next Destination in the concluding KILDARE POST FLAT RACE.
Today’s attendance was 19,072, compared to 16,978 on the same day last year.