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A series of supportive phone
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A series of supportive phone conversations with Ruby Walsh was one of the things that helped Paul Townend shake off a calamitous error on Tuesday and ride three winners from four mounts here on Wednesday, a turnaround in his fortunes that he described as “unreal”.
Working for Willie Mullins is a big help to anyone; the trainer bagged a scarcely credible six winners out of seven races and is now ahead of Gordon Elliott in prize money won for the season, making him long odds-on to keep his title as Ireland’s champion.
“It’s like fantasy racing,” said Mullins, who could not remember
having had six winners on a single card anywhere, never mind the day of the Punchestown Gold Cup, which he won with Bellshill. “We came here under a bit of a cloud but what a reply from Paul, and from all the jockeys. It’s been tremendous.”
Townend apologised for his inexplicable blunder on Tuesday, when he steered a likely winner around the final fence. “I thought I heard a shout and that the last fence was being bypassed,” he said in a statement and refused several requests to elaborate.
Racing is never short of conspiracy theories and at times they are bang on the money but Townend’s mishap on Al Boum Photo looks bizarre rather than suspicious, on the
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available evidence. The Irish Turf Club said it had seen nothing in the pattern of betting that would prompt further inquiry.
The Tizzard clan, trainers of Finian’s Oscar, have as much reason as anyone to be sore about what happened, as Al Boum Photo carried their horse out of the race. But Joe Tizzard met Townend at Mullins’s yard on Thursday morning and was reconciled with him.
“It was human error,” Tizzard said. “The first thing he did, when he saw us in the yard, he got off his horse and walked over to shake my hand and apologise. Really nice. We’re not the sort of people that are ever going to bear a grudge or anything daft like that.”
Asked about what, in his view,
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had caused Townend’s mistake, Tizzard, a former jockey, said: “I don’t think he really knows himself. There was something triggered him into thinking he had to go round the fence and there’s not a lot of time in those circumstances. You could tell it was affecting him. I felt for him.”
Townend could also
take comfort from Walsh’s words of support, uttered over the phone and at some length on Tuesday night. The message conveyed, apparently, was: “If this was an ordinary day in Ireland, you might be waiting a week for a chance to go out there and put it behind you. But the good news is, it’s the Punchestown Festival and you’ve got good rides in Grade Ones.” And Townend made the most of the opportunity.
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