Horseracing; 2018 Jumps Review
Punchestown proved the difference once again as another remarkable few days at the season ending festival saw Willie Mullins crowned champion trainer for the 12th time in 2018.
It looked like there was finally going to be a change at the top as Gordon Elliott headed into the meeting over half a million euro in front.
The Kildare venue has been a happy hunting ground for Mullins, however, and the sheer amount of prize-money on offer proved a game changer once again.
A stunning six-timer on the Wednesday helped turn the whole thing on it's head and he eventually powered clear to comfortably land the title again by over €800,000.
The big two continue to cement their positions as the dominant forces in Irish racing and it was Elliott who had the edge as the Irish enjoyed another memorable Cheltenham.
He retained his trainer's title at Prestbury Park with eight winners, one ahead of his great rival.
It was Mullins who got off to a flyer at the 2018 festival with a treble on the first day.
Footpad proved scintillating in the Arkle before Benie Des Dieux turned over Apple's Jade in the mares hurdle.
Patrick Mullins gained his fourth win in the four-miler courtesy of Rathvinden.
The Champion Hurdle produced a terrific finish on the first day with Buveur D'air showing great heart to see off the attentions of Melon.
Not to be outdone Elliott had his own treble on the Wednesday and it was all about the big 'talking' horse Samcro in the opening Ballymore Novices.
He got the job done, despite losing a shoe, and the dream was still alive following his 8/11 victory.
Elliott added to that victory with the wins of Tiger Roll in the cross-country and 33/1 shot Veneer Of Charm in the Fred Winter.
Mullins had a shock winner himself as Relegate swooped from the rear of land the bumper at 25/1 shot. He had also struck earlier on the card with 20/1 shot Bleu Berry in the Coral Cup.
Altior was the class act on show in the Champion Chase as he confirmed his dominance in the two-mile division but the performance of the day came from another Irish winner in Presenting Percy.
Pat Kelly's charge looked a superstar in the making as he ran away with the RSA Chase and shot to the head of the Gold Cup market after a stunning seven-length success.
Remarkably Elliott recorded another treble on the Thursday with the mare Shattered Love first up in the JLT Chase.
Delta Work just edged out stable-mate Glenloe in a tight finish to the Pertemps Final while The Storyteller made it three later in the Stable Plate Chase.
Mullins also had a couple and it was a terrific training performance to produce Penhill to take the Stayers Hurdle after a long absence.
One of the most impressive performances of the week came from Laurina in the Mares Novice Hurdle as she recorded a stunning 18-length success.
Michael O'Leary finally landed his own race at the festival as the Henry de Bromhead-trained Balko Des Flos claimed the Ryanair Chase in great style on the Thursday.
Friday is Gold Cup Day and once again stamina won the day as Native River broke the resolve of Might Bite up the hill.
Elliott secured the training honours at the meeting as Farclas landed the Triumph Hurdle and Blow By Blow wrapped things up with success in the Martin Pipe.
He may not have fulfilled his long-held ambition to claim the trainer's title in Ireland but it proved another terrific campaign for Elliott.
The victory of Silver Birch in the 2007 Grand National really put him on the map and he tasted success in the famous old race once again courtesy of Tiger Roll.
The diminutive Gigginstown gelding flew the Aintree fences to give his rider Davy Russell his first win in the race and fulfill a childhood dream.
Throughout he campaign Gigginstown and Elliott dominated the staying handicap chases and the trainer had 13 runners in the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday.
General Principle emerged on top in the €500,000 contest in one of the tightest ever finishes to the three-mile-five-furlong marathon.
The 20/1 shot powered home in the closing stages to get up for a head victory under JJ Slevin.
Earlier in the campaign the new Dublin Racing Festival proved a welcome addition to the calendar, fitting in nicely between Christmas and the all consuming run up to Cheltenham.
The first day highlight was the victory of Supersundae in the Irish Champion Hurdle as he turned over Faugheen.
It was a fairytale victory for Edwulf in the Irish Gold Cup on the Sunday as he sprang a 33/1 shock.
Joseph O'Brien's charge had been at death's door after pulling up in the four-miler at Cheltenham the previous season.
After a long recuperation he completed his remarkable recovery when storming home to get up late, under Derek O'Connor, and grab the Grade 1 prize.
Altior returned in glorious fashion in the new campaign with victory in the Tingle Creek as the old favourites take the stage once more.
After a disappointing end to her season last term Apple's Jade was back to her best with a stunning 20-length win in the Hatton's Grace.
Her stable-mate Samcro has had his bubble burst somewhat however with defeat at Down Royal before being put in his place in no uncertain terms by Buveur D'air at Newcastle.
Obviously he has questions to answer but Elliott continues to add to his arsenal with rising stars like Battleoverdoyen and Envoi Allen looking to have very bright futures.
Mullins has made a lightning start in the titles race with Elliott having some serious catch up on his plate this time.
2019 looks set to throw up plenty more clashes between the big two but hopefully stars like Presenting Percy can also light up proceedings as the Irish look set to have a major say in the