Mighty Potter springs 20-1 Punchestown surprise

Mighty Potter claimed a surprise victory in the Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

A field of five runners went to post for the first Grade One of this year’s Festival, with much of the pre-race focus on the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Sir Gerhard and and Dysart Dynamo.

Sir Gerhard was the 4-7 favourite to supplement success in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, with stablemate Dysart Dynamo (13-8) – a faller in the Supreme – widely considered his biggest threat.

Dysart Dynamo adopted his customary front-running role from flag-fall, with Sir Gerhard and Mighty Potter always his nearest pursuers.

The latter was pulled up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but raced with far more enthusiasm on this occasion, with Jack Kennedy doing a good job of keeping Sir Gerhard and Paul Townend in a pocket.

The gap came for Sir Gerhard before the home turn, but he was unable to keep tabs on 20-1 shot Mighty Potter, who fiddled his way over the final flight to seal a four-length verdict.

Elliott, completing a quick-fire double following the earlier success of Party Central in the opener, said: “It’s brilliant to win the first two races. I know it’s not going to be smooth sailing all week and when Willie gets going it will probably be like a steam train!

“I’m very lucky with all the support I have in the yard.”

He added: “Being honest, I thought Party Central was my best chance of the day. I was humming and hawing whether I’d run this horse. We walked the track a couple of times and said we’d take our chance.

“I thought Jack gave him a beautiful ride, he held his position the whole way. The horse is a chaser for the future and we’re very happy.

“He did the splits and was lame for a few days after Cheltenham, nothing seriously wrong with him but he just wasn’t right and came home very light.

“That was great and he’ll going chasing next year.”

Elliott teamed up with Davy Russell to win the opening Howden Insurance Brokers Mares’ Novice Hurdle with 9-4 chance Party Central.

The six-year-old took over from the pacesetting Instit with a bold leap at the final flight and was always doing enough thereafter to score by a length and a quarter.

“That was great, she loves that ground. Davy gave her a great ride and it worked out great,” said Cullentra handler.

“Davy said he was happy the whole way. The one thing you don’t want to do is get to the front too soon as she idles. The plan was to be upsides at the last, but as soon as she got to the front she pulled up.

“We haven’t discussed it yet but I can’t see why she won’t jump a fence. She’s a nice mare and I’d say ground is a big key to her, she just doesn’t like real depths of winter heavy ground.”