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Minella Crooner hits winning note at Punchestown

Minella Crooner hits winning note at Punchestown
Minella Crooner hits winning note at Punchestown

Minella Crooner bounced back to form when getting the better of a ding-dong battle with Better Times Ahead in the Listed-class Palmerstown House Estate Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase at Punchestown.

The pair were both far from convincing at the final fence when jumping that obstacle together but each rallied bravely on the run-in.

In the end, it was Gordon Elliott’s Minella Crooner, who had been pulled up in the Ultima at Cheltenham and the Grand National at Aintree, who just managed to get the nod by a head under Sam Ewing at 25-1, despite the jockey losing his whip.

Ewing said: “He was very happy in his race today. I travelled fairly well everywhere. I made a little bit of a mess of the last, but he stuck his head down and galloped to the line.”

On the whip going awry, he joked: “At least I won’t get done for the stick anyway! Luckily, he stuck his head down for me where it mattered.”

Gavin Cromwell’s best-ever season got even better when 100-30 chance Stumptown led home Fameaftertheglory for a stable one-two in the Donohue Marquees Cross Country Chase.

Stumptown had unseated Sean Flanagan when badly bumped by a loose horse in the La Touche Cup on Thursday but they gained compensation for that misfortune when scoring by five and a half lengths.

Cromwell said: “He was right there the other day and was going well. I suppose it was lucky enough that it wasn’t too far into the race that he could come back here today.

“He actually benefitted from the experience of the race the other day. He knew his job much better and has a future at this job.”

Will The Wise rounded off the meeting in style for Cromwell with a last-gasp victory in the Lawlor’s Of Naas INH Flat Race, pouncing on the line to deny Jacob’s Ladder in a photo.

The Gradual Slope (22-1) got up close home to land the marathon Colm Quinn BMW Handicap Chase for Sean O’Brien and Mark McDonagh, prevailing by just a neck to deny Lucinda Russell’s Your Own Story, who had led for a long way under Patrick Wadge.

O’Brien said: “Mark gave him a cool ride all the way around, got him to switch off and never missed a beat on him. It’s a great way to lose his claim.

“He’s only a small horse and he had a light weight. We just felt stepping him up in trip and putting him to sleep that he would have a chance.”

Chapeau De Soleil got the better of a thrilling battle with Beacon Edge to prevail by a short head in the SBK Gold Trophy Handicap Hurdle.

Ridden by Brian Hayes, the 16-1 shot was completing a treble on the day for Willie Mullins after the successes of Lossiemouth and Kargese.

Hayes said: “He was plenty keen and didn’t do everything right. There wasn’t that much pace on and he had a lot to do in the straight but stayed on really well. He has plenty of scope and should make a nice chaser.”

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