2018 Punchestown Festival: Carberry bows out, 18 wins for Mullins

Following Katie Walsh’s retirement from the saddle on Friday evening, it was the turn of her sister-in-law Nina Carberry to announce she had ridden her final race in Saturday’s opening contest. Carberry partnered Josies Orders (6/5 Fav) for longstanding supporter Enda Bolger in the DOOLEY INSURANCES CROSS COUNTRY CHASE and came in to a huge cheer from the massive crowd as her family and fellow riders gathered in the winner’s enclosure.
          “It was really sweet to finish off on Josies Orders,” said Carberry. “I think either way I’d have stopped today, whether I’d won or not, I’d chosen a couple of weeks ago that I’d do it this afternoon. Enda has been a massive supporter and I wouldn’t have had all the Cheltenham winners without him and J P (McManus) as well. I’m sad and I’m happy. I’m sad that I’m finished and going to miss all the banter but happy that I’ve got a new career ahead of me.
          “A couple of months ago, I decided that this would be my last season and today was going to be the day, whether I had a winner or not. To have a winner is great, and for Enda and J P over the Banks – it’s something special. Punchestown has been very good to me along the way and this was the day I picked. I was just hoping that Josies Orders would do it for me and, fair dues, he did. I probably got to the front too soon in the La Touche Cup and Auvergnat was probably a bit better than me but he did it today anyway.
          “Katie and I were walking the course together on Tuesday and I told her that this would be my last Punchestown. She said that she had something to tell me and she told me that her winner would be her last one. So we kind of had an idea of what we were going to do. She didn’t know that I was retiring and I didn’t know that she was – it was just our time. We gave ourselves a hug and a little cry. The day On The Fringe won his third race here after the double at Cheltenham and Aintree was something special. Noel Meade was also very loyal to me the whole way through and Gordon Elliott is a brilliant trainer who supported me the whole way – trainers like that are who you want to ride for and they were very good to me. It means so much having (baby) Rosie, my mum, Paul and my nieces here. I will continue riding out at Ballydoyle and hopefully buying and selling the few that I have at the minute. With a bit of luck, we will keep going with that.”
          Bolger said: “I watched the race with Nina’s mum and the final 200 yards were the longest 200 yards I’ve ever seen, I’m stuck for words but at the same time so happy for Nina. She gave everything 110% and you never needed to give her instructions in a race, you just leave it all to her. She’s a Carberry and they are natural horsemen. “
          Noel Meade said: “She’s such a fabulous person and has been from the very first time I ever met her. She’s from a fantastic family and what you see with Nina is what you get every time. She’s a fabulous tactician and a highly-competent rider. I’m delighted that she’s able to pull out in one piece. It’s a fantastic day but a sad day.”
          Carberry’s brother Paul added: “I’m very proud of her. She texted me last night saying that she was going to do the same as Katie and I thought she was messing. I rang Mum, who said I should come racing. She’s had a great career and I’ve loved watching her and it’s great that she’s bowing out safely. There’s a lot of good memories and we rode in the National together a few times. She had a lot of good winners and will be a big loss for Noel (Meade).”
          Robbie Power added: “The two best female riders of all time have gone in the same week. It’s fitting that Nina went out in the race she did because she has long been queen of the banks courses here and at Cheltenham. She’s a natural over obstacles.”
Shortly before being crowned as champion trainer for 12th time, Willie Mullins sent out his 15th winner of the 2018 Punchestown Festival when Benie Des Dieux landed the Grade 1 IRISH STALLION FARMS EBF ANNIE POWER MARES CHAMPION HURDLE.
          “She’s as good as I thought she was,” said Mullins. “My aim all year was to run her at Cheltenham and then hopefully to come on here. She’s the female version of Douvan, if you saw the work she did at home. We’ll talk about sending her chasing next year but I want to see what there is over fences for her, are there the races to go for?”
          Reflecting on the week, he added: “My team at home, my owners and people that follow the yard have enjoyed it but for me it was more a relief. Being able to get into a challenging position for the title after Tuesday was just a pure relief. I’m humbled to have won the same number of championships as Tom Dreaper, he was God when I was growing. I’m enjoying training as much as getting ever and trying to find the horses. But it’s not getting any easier to win, thanks to the likes of Gordon (Elliott). But we’ve got together a really strong team at home- it’s a big thing having the likes of Patrick (Mullins), David Casey and Ruby there helping to put everything together.”
          Owner Rich Ricci added: “Benie Des Dieux was very good. I was a little worried that Paul went a bit soon and, when you eyeball Apple’s Jade, she is as tough as teak. I have always liked this mare – she is very good – and I can’t wait to see her back over a fence because I think that is where her game is. The way she jumps, it puts a lot pressure on some of the muscles on the back. It’s hard to get her back quickly again but hopefully we will see if we can straighten her out. She is a brilliant jumper and I would love to see her back over fences. Today showed that she is not short of pace either, which is fantastic. We have had a great week. It’s great to have the sunshine and a bit of luck. The ball seems to have bounced our way. I couldn’t believe that Apple’s Jade was so short in the betting but I hope that the O’Learys have had a good week as they do so much. Apple’s Jade is a great mare and I am sure that will bounce back next season.”
          Winning rider Paul Townend added: “Robbie set a good gallop before Jack (Kennedy on Apple’s Jade) took it off him and kept it up but Benie Des Dieux came alive for me over the third last and second last. She stays well and is a very good mare – she has proven that Cheltenham was no fluke. She is very versatile and has jumped a fence very well. Wherever she goes, she will be a force to be reckoned with.”
Mullins went on to equal his 2015 record of 16 wins at the Punchestown Festival when Saldier won the Grade 1 AES CHAMPION FOUR YEAR OLD HURDLE, again in the colours of Susannah Ricci.
          “He’s a very good horse but his jumping just let him down on his last two runs,” said Mullins. “We saw the real horse today. I’ve always thought a fair bit of him and a bit of schooling helped. All of these could go to France and they’ll stay hurdling next season.”
          Winning rider Robbie Power added: “I spoke to David Casey and Willie said to me then going out that he had plenty of speed and that if I could get him jumping, he’s a very good horse and apart from the second hurdle today, he jumped brilliantly.  He was real slick and real quick and if he keeps improving like that – maybe the better ground helped him as well – he’s got plenty of gears.  He jumped so well today, that’s what made the difference I think.”
          Mullins set a new record of 18 successes when Meri Devie (14/1) landed the Grade B BALLYMORE HANDICAP HURDLE and Passageway (7/2 Joint-Fav) captured the PDM (PRO/AM) INH FLAT RACE.
          The Henry de Bromhead-trained Heron Heights (16/1) provided another success for Power when easily winning the PALMERSTOWN HOUSE PAT TAAFFE HANDICAP CHASE. “Henry was quite hopeful – he was just a little bit worried about the ground. He travelled and jumped everywhere and I felt that I was the winner a long way out,” said Power.
Gigginstown House Stud’s colours were carried to victory by the Noel Meade-trained Wounded Warrior (20/1) in the BOYLESPORTS HANDICAP CHASE.
The total attendance at this year’s Punchestown Festival was 127,489, compared to 122,577 last year. Saturday’s crowd was 35,948 compared to 34,370 in 2017.

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