Facile Vega was made to pull out all the stops to maintain his unbeaten record in the Race & Stay At Punchestown Champion I.N.H. Flat Race at Punchestown.
But Quevega’s son proved he possesses plenty of guts to go with his undoubted quality in seeing off his Willie Mullins-trained stablemate Redemption Day, who was well fancied but disappointed in the championship event at Cheltenham.
All the pre-race talk concentrated on Facile Vega clashing again with Gordon Elliott’s American Mike, who had almost four lengths to make up from Cheltenham.
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Patrick Mullins celebrates as a muddy Facile Vega returns to the winner's enclosure at Cheltenham
Jamie Codd was positive on American Mike and tracked the pace-setters while Patrick Mullins was content to follow him a few lengths adrift.
All the while, however, Jody Townend was following Mullins, determined to play her hand last of all.
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When Mullins cruised up alongside American Mike he must have thought it was going to be straightforward, only to see Townend arrive sat motionless to his left.
Redemption Day did briefly get in front, but Facile Vega (8-15 favourite) responded generously to Mullins’ urgings, going on to score by a length and a quarter, with the pair pulling 14 lengths clear of American Mike.
Facile Vega wins the Champion Bumper
Facile Vega was left unchanged as the 5-2 favourite for next year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Paddy Power.
“He had to pull it out there because Jody nearly stole it. She said ‘we didn’t beat him, but we frightened him’,” said Mullins senior.
“The horse had to dig deep and it’s the sign of a good horse. I don’t work them hard at home but he’s getting stronger all the time.
“The owners didn’t sell the mare and they put her in foal to the most expensive stallion in the country in Walk In The Park and they have got a fantastic horse out of it.
American Mike and Jamie Codd win the Future Champions Flat Race at Navan
“There were big offers for this horse, but they decided they are not going to sell him. They are getting a reward and hopefully he will serve them for the next couple of years.
“He has huge potential and fingers crossed he stays right.”
Patrick Mullins said: “He was quite worked up in the parade ring and down at the start which wouldn’t be like him, so I think the season was probably starting to get to him a bit.
“I said it before Cheltenham that there wasn’t much between this fellow and Redemption Day on home work. Redemption Day is a very good horse as well.
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“Turning out of the back straight, I’m thinking to myself ‘you’re a bit flat’ and I wanted to hold onto him as long as I could.
“I was happy I would beat American Mike for gears, but I thought that Redemption Day might be a little bit quicker than me.
“He was flat today and he still won, he got headed and he battled back. He’s the full package, he can do it tough if he needs to.”