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2018 PUNCHESTOWN FESTIVAL: DAY 1

25 April 2018

The Grade 1 Champion Novice Chase was undoubtedly the talking point after Day 1 of the Punchestown Festival, as the extraordinary closing stages saw THE STORYTELLER (IRE) crowned the winner. Approaching the last, victory looked likely for either Al Boum Photo or Finian’s Oscar (IRE), until the former veered towards the wing, bringing the latter with him. Davy Russell was left in the lead aboard THE STORYTELLER (IRE) and raced home strongly to win by six lengths, chased home by two of his Gordon Elliott stablemates.

Mrs Pat Sloan, a loyal supporter of Irish racing, was the winning owner and had her six-time winner purchased by Kevin Ross Bloodstock for €67,000 at the Goffs Land Rover Sale. Bred by Rowena Cotton and Stephen Lannigan O’Keeffe, THE STORYTELLER (IRE) is another successful product of sending a Bob Back mare to Burgage Stud sire Shantou, other examples being Briar Hill (IRE) and Shantou Flyer (IRE).

The previous race saw COMMANDER OF FLEET (IRE) bag €59,000 for connections when demolishing his rivals in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper. The sole finisher of his only point-to-point start for Pat Doyle, his potential was perhaps mysterious, but fully confirmed by his eight and a half length victory. He was part of a double on the card for his late sire, Fame And Glory of Grange Stud, with Kalum River (IRE) winning the other bumper of the day.

Mags O’Toole purchased the winner on behalf of Gigginstown House Stud for €47,000 at the Goffs Land Rover Sale, with Mount Eaten Stud having bought him as a foal from Egmont Stud at the Tattersalls Ireland November NH Sale. Bred by Patricia Coghlan, COMMANDER OF FLEET (IRE) is the second foal out of bumper winner Coonagh Cross (IRE), herself a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Sunset Lodge (IRE) and Grade 2 performer Atum Rae (IRE). Coghlan bred the trio out of a full-sister to Listed chase victor Renagown, from the family of Grade 1 winners Death Duty (IRE), Foxrock (IRE) and One Knight (IRE).

TRUE SELF (IRE) advertised the fine chances that the mares allowance offers’ when impressing in the Grade B Killashee Handicap Hurdle on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival. Last year’s leading conditional rider, Rachel Blackmore, also advertised her abilities when taking the lead before the final flight and drove her mount out to score by two and a half lengths. Victory in the €60,000 contest was also important for the winning trainer, Willie Mullins, who is aiming to pull back Gordon Elliott’s lead before the champion trainer title is decided at the end of the week.

The winning daughter of Oscar (IRE) was bred by Don Cantillon and is a granddaughter of Listed performer Only Great, from the family of Pretty Polly Stakes third Ceili Mor and dual Group 2 winner Commanche Chief. 

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