Punchestown: Felix Yonger lands Champion Chase blow

BoyleSports Champion Chase (Grade 1) 2m

FELIX YONGER scooped a first Grade 1 of his career when out-battling the unfancied Baily Green in a thrilling running of Punchestown’s day one feature.

The well-backed 5-1 winner appeared to be third string of Willie Mullins’s trio of contenders judged on jockey bookings, with his nephew Danny Mullins, who partnered the nine-year-old to Grade 2 success at Cork in December, given the leg-up.

But with Champagne Fever (fifth) and Twinlight (sixth) running below their best Mullins had only one horse in contention turning in as long-time leader Baily Green, rejuvenated under an enterprising ride from Mark Enright, continued to forge on in front.

The one-time Arkle runner-up was sent off at 40-1 after a loss of form but this was more like it and he saw off Mallowney before the sweet-travelling Felix Yonger came to challenge at the second-last.

The two horses, both proven over longer trips, engaged in a pulsating battle all the way to the line but the winner responded readily to Mullins’s urgings to get up by half a length.

It took his unbeaten sequence to four and owner Graham Wylie was thrilled with both horse and rider.

He said: “He’s a two and a half mile horse really. We thought that maybe this would play to his strengths and it did. Danny gave him a beautiful ride. He got into a great rhythm, he jumped well and he had plenty left in the tank for the finish of the race. It was a nice surprise.

“Danny is a great jockey, he has won twice on him now, at Cork and again today. It was nice for him and I’m also delighted for Willie as it was a great training performance. It was a nice start to the week and I hope it continues.”