Min overcome a few hairy moments to fend off Hardline and
secure back-to-back editions of the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown,
writes Richard Forristal.
Paul Townend’s mount gave the first fence plenty of air and never seemed to get into a rhythm out in front, reaching for a few fences and backing off others.
When Hardline came through to throw down a challenge two-out, it looked as though the Susannah Ricci-owned chaser might be in bother. The front-runner was headed and his fate looked sealed.
To his credit, though, Min knuckled down and began to assert his authority on the run to the final fence. At that point, Townend needed help from his mount and it was certainly forthcoming.
Min threw in a big leap, which, for all that it looked a bit awkward, probably just gave him the initiative to go on and win.
He eventually pulled clear to record a fifth Grade 1 success by two-and-a-quarter lengths, with Presenting Percy, who kept on gamely over the inadequate two-and-a-half-mile trip, a further length back in third.
“When I needed him to jump he was very good,” said Townend, who won the race for a first time.
“We weren't going a two-mile gallop early on and that's what he is used to doing, but his jumping actually won it for him in the end. He was fresh enough as well on his first run back, so you'd be happy enough with him.”
As they swung for home, all nine runners in the €85,000 Grade 1 could have been covered with a blanket, lending further credence to the impression that the pace hadn’t been strong.
Storm Atiyah had been rattling around the Kildare venue and strong winds coincided with some piercing winter showers during the feature event.
And trainer Willie Mullins, enjoying his sixth Durkan success, felt conditions didn’t help Townend’s task
“I thought it was an unbelievable performance coming after three bad mistakes,” he said. “I think he wanted to go faster but it's very hard in that wind to judge what's happening.
“If he had been going faster he mightn't have made those mistakes so to make them and then come back from what looked like certain defeat at the second last; he picked up and threw a huge jump at the last and was going away at the end. I thought it was
an unbelievable win.”