Wednesday, April 26, 2023

TONY Bloom suffered heartache when the Premier League team he owns, Brighton were beaten in a penalty shootout by Manchester United in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final but he was all smiles today as Energumene completed the Double Double, by claiming the spoils in the William Hill Champion Chase at Punchestown.

Paul Townend on Energumene (left) gets the better of Danny Mullins on Chacon Pour Soi tin win The William Hill Champion Steeplechase (Grade 1) on the first day at the Punchestown Festival
Photo: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

The nine-year-old is now a two-time winner of the race, following up each time from scoring in the Cheltenham Champion Chase but despite going off a 2/7 favourite, Energumene was made to show he had the heart to go with his ability, fighting back after falling behind stablemate Chacun Pour Soi at the back of the last fence to eventually prevail by three-quarters of a length.
It was a welcome return to form for the runner-up and the 2021 winner received a warm round of applause on being steered to the No 2 lollipop by Danny Mullins.
It was Paul Townend, in Bloom’s Brighton blue livery, that was on the top spot on the podium however, even though Energumene made a number of unusual errors as Magic Daze and Rachael Blackmore set off at a brisk pace.
He dug deep when required however, giving both rider and trainer Willie Mullins a second Grade 1 winner of the opening day of the Punchestown Festival.
“When (Chacun Pour Soi) got a better jump than me at the last, it looked like we were going to come out the worst of it and it was going to be one of my favourite horses beating me, albeit we weren’t going to give it to him that easy,” said a smiling Townend. “It was brilliant to see him bounce back to his best and credit to my horse for pulling it out.
“Maybe we just had a harder race than we thought at Cheltenham, it was such good performance. But he’s a very honest horse and he probably puts it in on the bridle.”
Mullins, who saddled the first four, with Blue Lord and Gentleman De Mee following in behind, was understandably ecstatic.
“He was so brave the way he dug deep,” said Mullins. “Chacun Pour Soi is a difficult horse to pass when he’s racing like that. I was delighted with Chacun.
“It was real grit from Energumene. Normally he wins with class but today he had to get down and fight it out. Paul had to get tough with him and he answered every call. You could see possibly the end of the season getting to him. Paul said he wasn’t as sharp as he was at Cheltenham.”
The champion trainer, who had been victorious with Facile Vega in the Grade 1 KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle and the Killashee Hotel Handicap Hurdle with Bialystok, who was piloted by Danny Mulins, brought his tally for the day to four when Predators Gold (4/1), with Patrick Mullins doing the steering, got the better of a duel up the straight with the Jody Townend-ridden stablemate Milos Lises to score the €100,000 Goffs Defender Bumper.
Meanwhile, an attendance of 14,937 turned up at the Kildare track, representing an increase of 500 on last year.

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