The Shunter (13/2) became the first Irish-trained winner of the G3 Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle since Sizing Europe in 2007 as Emmet Mullins added his name to his family’s rich history at Cheltenham.
Mullins is the nephew of Festival-winning trainers Willie, Tom and Tony, while his grandfather Paddy saddled the incomparable Dawn Run to glory in the Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The Shunter was held up in mid-field by Robbie Power as Ballinsker led the 14 runners. Ballyandy took up the running at the third-last and continued to hold a narrow advantage jumping the final flight, with The Shunter quickening strongly to collar the top-weight soon after before going away for a three-length victory.
Ballyandy, who was conceding 26lb to the winner, stayed on for second, with 4/1 favourite Tegerek a head further back in third.
Robbie Power said: “It is great to ride a winner for Emmet, that is all the Mullins’ covered now – I have ridden winners for them all. It was fantastic, he told me he was very straightforward.
"That is the lightest weight (10st) I have done for about 10 years, I would say! Emmet fancied him; the rain came – he is more of a two and a half miler, but with the rain coming, it brought stamina into play. I got badly outpaced down the hill and couldn't go with them, so I had to sit and suffer, but he winged the second-last and I knew when I gave him a squeeze at the back of the second-last that I had every chance. I needed a good jump again at the last and he has delivered for me. Once I met the rising ground, he galloped all the way up the hill, and having a light weight on your back in that sort of ground makes a huge difference as well.
"I haven't eaten a whole pile since Friday morning - very little, a bit of chicken and some All-Bran for breakfast. I haven't had dinner for the past two nights. I don't like sweating; I would rather starve than sweat, and I had a small sweat this morning because I had half a pound to lose. It is the sweating that makes you weaker than anything else; I'm well hydrated and have been drinking plenty of fluids and all that. I have probably smoked more in the past few days than I would normally!
"Emmet has done a fantastic job with this horse; he was impressive over hurdles at Downpatrick, and very impressive in a beginners’ chase in Punchestown, and Emmet thought coming here off 10 stone was a good chance for him. The heavens opened and really played to his strengths.
“I was hoping by coming over here and basing myself over with the Tizzards that when Irish trainers sent horses over, they would use me, so thankfully this weekend they are anyway.”
Sam Twiston-Davies, rider of runner-up Ballyandy said: “Ballyandy is a fantastic servant for the yard and ran really well.”
Kevin Brogan, rider of the favourite Tegerek, said: “Tegerek ran well. He was being a bit of a boyo before the race which didn’t really help. I thought turning in he was going very well, but it’s very hard work in that ground out there - we’re very happy with him.”
3.00pm Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 87y
1 The Shunter – Emmet Mullins IRE 7-10-00 Robbie Power 13/2
2 Ballyandy – Nigel Twiston-Davies 9-11-12 Sam Twiston-Davies 8/1
3 Tegerek – Jonjo O’Neill 6-10-04 Kevin Brogan (7) 4/1F
Distances: 3, hd
Tote Win: £7.20 Places: £2.50 £2.40 £2 Exacta: £69.60 Trifecta: £468.10