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Power-packed finish proves decisive for Mullins star

Power-packed finish proves decisive for Mullins star
Power-packed finish proves decisive for Mullins star

Mystical Power finished with a flourish to reverse Cheltenham Festival form with Slade Steel in the KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

Henry de Bromhead’s Slade Steel had proved too strong for the Willie Mullins-trained Mystical Power in the latter stages of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in mid-March, since when the latter had gone one better in Grade One company at Aintree.

There was little to choose between the pair in the betting for the rematch on home soil, but Mystical Power was the narrow favourite at 2-1 and ultimately took his revenge.

The extended two-mile contest was run at a strong gallop from flag-fall thanks to the Danny Mullins-ridden Ile Atlantique, but the race changed complexion quickly racing down the back straight, as both he and nearest pursuer Tullyhill back-peddled rapidly.

Slade Steel arrived on the scene seemingly travelling best rounding the final bend, but he found disappointingly little for Rachael Blackmore once coming under pressure, whereas Mystical Power – a son of Galileo out of the great racemare Annie Power – powered home from further back in the hands of Mark Walsh to score by a length and three-quarters.

Firefox, third in the Supreme and runner-up to Mystical Power at Aintree, ran another fine race in defeat to split the market principals in second.

“He showed resilience and toughness today, he’s been improving all season,” Mullins said of the winner.

“I didn’t think we had much chance at the second-last and Mark said he was going as fast as he could coming around the last bend.

“The race turned into a staying race, with the other two protagonists playing their cards going to the last, they were flat out and he just outstayed them with a good jump at the last.

“It’s fantastic that he’s progressed as the season has gone on and I think Annie Power is coming out in him.”

Mystical Power with connections at Punchestown
Mystical Power with connections at Punchestown (Gary Carson/PA)

When asked if Mystical Power would have a Champion Hurdle campaign next season, he added: “There is a lot of thinking to do between now and then but you’d certainly have to look at that. I don’t think he’ll go novice chasing, as he looks more of a hurdler than a chaser.

“He could easily step up in trip watching that performance today. Mark said he found it tough with the amount of speed that was in the early part of the race.

“It looked a real staying race there today, which would mean that he’s a two-and-a-half-mile hurdler and they are the sort of horses you probably need to win a Champion Hurdle, so maybe it’s all pointing in that direction.”

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