THE Punchestown Festival brought the curtain down on a most memorable national hunt season.
Then the first Classic of the new season was won by the evergreen Jim Bolger and Poetic Flare.
On an incredible day for the Townend family Paul and Jody both collected their Champion Jockeys titles becoming the first brother and sister to win titles in the same season.
Willie Mullins was crowned Champion Trainer while his son Patrick saw off the determined challenge of Jamie Codd for the Amateurs Title.
JP McManus is the Champion Owner for the first time in seven years and for the 18th time in all. He has wrestled back the title from Gigginstown House.
Mullins Snr is our Champion Trainer and following his extraordinary Punchestown Festival, he will be a short price to retain his crown. Energume and Chaqun Pour Soi were exceptional and their clashes with Shiskin next season in the two-mile division will be something to savour.
Paul Townend is Champion Jockey for the third successive time and for the fourth time in his career. While he had to see off a determined challenge from Rachael Blackmore the Lisgoold rider will get such a kick out of this victory.
He picked his rides carefully last week as he was coming back from injury and the big guns certainly delivered. Among his highlights this season were the multiple Grade 1 winners Chacun Pour Soi, Energumene, Monkfish, Appreciate It and Gaillard Du Mesnil.
Paul was crowned champion jockey for the first time in the 2010/11 season and ends this season with 100 winners. Townend had to wait in the wings long enough while Ruby Walsh was stable jockey and he has gone from strength to strength since assuming the top job, winning two Gold Cup on Al Boum Photo since taking over.
Switching codes to the flat and what a weekend for 79-year-old trainer Jim Bolger and his 51-year-old stable jockey Kevin Manning. Bolger has enjoyed such a brilliant career and Poetic Flare edged out Master Of The Seas in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket for another famous victory last Saturday.
Bolger won the race in 2013 with the magnificent Dawn Approach but this success will mean even more coming as it did in his wife Jackie’s silks.
Speaking from his Carlow base Bolger said: “I thought he was beaten. It’s a big day for us, right up there with the best we’ve had.
“He wasn’t ready for the Dewhurst last year. I thought he was a little bit fitter than he was and I was hoping he’d run a big race and get the experience of running at that level.
“He ran out of wind about a furlong and a half down, but we were very pleased in the run and didn’t lose faith in him.
”I’m not too concerned about him getting further in time. Kevin did say in the interview on TV that he thought he’d stay 10 furlongs, but at the moment I’m not thinking about going anywhere except the mile.
“He has buckets of speed and I even entered him in the Commonwealth Cup in the unlikely event that he didn’t stay, as he’s that quick and you always have some doubts about whether the very quick ones will stay or not.
“The St James’s Palace would definitely be on the cards.
“It’s a wonderful day. In our case it’s fairly necessary with the way I do things! It very much carries on that Dawn Approach line, and I have two half-sisters of Poetic Flare as well.”
Jessica Harrington was equally pleased with Lucky Vega who finished third.
“I’m delighted with him. He ran a great race and proved he stays. He’s a relaxed horse and just a little bit fresh.
“Shane said he didn’t come down the hill very well, but he stayed well and he said he was coming back at them with every stride. He’s in the Irish Guineas and the St James’s Palace, so they are nice options to have.
“I’ve also got Cadillac, who is meant to be going to the Irish Guineas. It’s fantastic to have the two of them.
“We might have to run them against each other later in the year, although Cadillac might get further he’s from more of a staying family.”
Finally, the Epsom Derby favourite High Definition will not run today at Lingfield. While his trainer Aidan O’Brien remains positive about his prospects of making it to Epsom it is hardly ideal.