HILL CLIMBS HIGHEST TO PEN NEW RECORD
The Willie Mullins-trained Penhill became the first horse to win the G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle and the G1 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle following an impressive success under Paul Townend in the three-mile championship event.
The 12/1 shot travelled sweetly throughout and after winging the final flight, he kept on tenaciously to master Jessica Harrington's Supasundae (6/1) and score by two lengths. Nigel Twiston-Davies' Wholestone (14/1) stayed on well to finish a further three lengths behind in third.
Mullins, registering his sixth winner of the week and his 60th success at The Festival overall, drawing him level with Nicky Henderson as The Festival's winning-most trainer, said: "Penhill must have some engine. I could not believe it watching Paul come down the outside and I thought wow - if he fluffs the last then he could blow up and fall in a hole, but he met the last perfectly and then I thought Supasundae would out gallop him but he kept on powerfully. It is fantastic for Tony Bloom.
"A lot of credit has to go to Holly Conte who leads him up, rides him and does everything with him. She has virtually trained this horse herself I think. She minds him because he is fairly fragile. I will attribute this to Holly.
"He has had lots of niggles which needed tending and that's why we missed the Flat season as we were trying to get him ready and that is when he had problems.
"I would like to put him away now for Cheltenham next year. I don't know what will happen when I say that to connections, but he is not suited to training for the Flat.
"I was hoping to get a run into him, but coming here without a prep race to win a championship race is a huge achievement to the horse.
"I was quite surprised how little he was blowing during the race - he was way fitter than I thought he was.
"He is able to do this job so well, so we might just try a whole different plan. If he doesn't go Flat racing, we might be able to have a better winter racing programme."
Winning owner Tony Bloom, who also owns Premier League football side Brighton and Hove Albion, commented: "To go there and win outside of novice company for the first time is unbelievable and it was brilliant ride by Paul.
"Back in the summer, we were worried as to whether he would run again, but a few months back, I was told he was getting better and fit, but to be able to come back from all that time out and win a Grade One championship race was brilliant.
"He has done it with absolute style. I was concerned two hurdles out whether he would get up the hill after such a long time out, but he has won it going away.
"Paul did brilliantly, he gave him a quiet ride and then coming down the hill, we started to get confident and then jumping the last and going clear was a brilliant effort.
"We had a bet on him, more with hope that expectation but it was a good price and another winner."
PENHILL SHINES FOR TOWNEND
Jockey Paul Townend got on the scoresheet for the week when Penhill, returning from an absence of 323 days, captured the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle for trainer Willie Mullins.
"It was very similar to when he won the Albert Bartlett here last year," said Townend. "He was understandably a bit rusty and fresh early on so that's why I dropped him out.
"We didn't go as fast as I'd anticipated early on and I was able to hang on and hang on. I stuck to the plan of last year.
"I was probably there two furlongs too soon. It is an unbelievable training performance but it isn't the first time he has done it. He is a genius.
"Penhill has a massive engine. You still think back to what he did as a novice hurdler in Galway when he was tailed off at the top of the hill and flew home. That is the sort of ability he has.
"It has been a frustrating couple of days. I suppose I am very lucky to ride for the people I do as when it goes wrong, we put it behind us and move on to the next race. I am just relieved. To win a championship race here is very special."
SUPA OUTSTAYED UP THE HILL
Sent off at 6/1, the second-placed Galileo gelding, Supasundae, didn't disgrace coming home a two-length second to the fellow Newsells Park Stud bred Penhill (12/1) in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle over three miles.
Trained by Jessica Harrington, Supasundae won the Irish Champion Hurdle last time out, but the trainer thought the ground might have gone against her charge
"The ground, I think, just caught him out in the last hundred yards." Harrington said.
"That is the best he has ever run on that ground ever! He has improved an awful lot this year - he has come on stones to tell you the truth.
"He doesn't look like he has had a hard race, he is quite perky in himself. There is Aintree and Punchestown, but we will see how he is when we get home.
"I am absolutely thrilled with him."
Robbie Power, added: "He was just out stayed on that ground. On good ground, he would get there no problem.
"If we hadn't have had the nine millimetres of rain last night it would have been perfect ground for us. You cannot control the man above.
"It wasn't a strongly run race but, on that ground you couldn't really go."
Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of the third Wholestone commented; "Wholestone has done us proud. He was third in the Albert Bartlett last year, beating everyone except the Irish, and he has done exactly the same today.
"The New One has not run great. It was very soft and either he didn't get home or he hasn't run his race. That was the worst race of his life, so it was very disappointing. He looked very cheerful afterwards and that's the main thing. He owes none of us anything."
3.30pm Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1)
1 PENHILL (Tony Bloom) Willie Mullins IRE 7-11-10 Paul Townend 12/1
2 SUPASUNDAE (Ann & Alan Potts Ltd) Jessica Harrington IRE 8-11-10 6/1
3 WHOLESTONE (Simon Munir & Isaac Souede) Nigel Twiston-Davies 7-11-10 Aiden Coleman 14/1
9/4 fav Sam Spinner (5th)
Distances: 2, 3
Tote Win: £13.80 Places: £3.80, £2.40, £4.20 Exacta: £109.90
Willie Mullins - 60th winner at The Festival
Paul Townend - 7th winner at The Festival
BetBright Cup - standings after 18 races
Great Britain 5