Punchestown: Diverge after emphatic success in team Willie Mullins Cheltenham

As if Willie Mullins’ team wasn’t strong enough for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Chris Jones-owned diverge entered the competition after hauling out a 23-length first hurdle winner.

After his second run over hurdles, the son of Frankel was sent forward by Paul Townend before the half and from there he galloped and leapt his rivals into submission as he continued to pull away from the only previous bumper winner in the race, Mon Coeur .

The five-year-old has scored 33-1 on most companies for the festival opener in six weeks and is unlikely to run again before then.

Mullins said: “He’s improved a lot since his run at Leopardstown when he went too sharp. I told Paul not to fight him too much. We thought the race might have enough pace, but Paul was able to keep it going and enjoy himself, he likes to jump.”

He added: “We originally bought him to run in the Triumph hurdle but when we monetized him last year there were complications and he almost died. We didn’t manage to get it out before Christmas I’ll go with the Supreme over the Ballymore. He’s a very sharp horse.”

Mullins completed a double when stable outsider Haxo, in Noel Fehily Racing Syndicate colors and ridden by Danny Mullins, took advantage of the sloppy jumping of his better stablemate Sir Argus to score by a length.

“He’s a newcomer in his second season and he jumped very well,” said the master trainer. “He’s a nice guy and looks like a real hunter.

“Sir Argus just seems to have lost his confidence after falling in Clonmel. He did a lot of school.

Ishan lands a punt

Sam Curling proves himself a trainer adept at landing a gamble as Ishan, ridden by Philip Enright, won the final 3m handicap hurdle.

The five-year-old, who was 28-1 earlier in the day, was sent off 6-1 and stayed strong after the final flight to see Killinure Lass’s stubborn challenge and score by two-and-a-half lengths.

The trainer said: “He had a good run at Tramore but couldn’t go a meter on the heavy ground in Limerick. He kept up all the time and took advantage of a bad race today.

“Last year he was ready to do point-to-point, but we didn’t think he would quite be up to a four-year-old point-to-point, so we said we’d do hurdles. He’s got a little bit of a run for his time but it’s progressing well now. We will now try to find something similar, and he will also jump over a fence in time.

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