Dancing City brought the curtain down on a season in which he has certainly shown his durability by adding a third Grade 1 of his campaign with a gritty half-length triumph over Closutton stablemate High Class Hero in the Channor Real Estate Group Novice Hurdle on day two of the Punchestown Festival.

The victory now brings trainer Willie Mullins to within three winners of the all-time record for Irish trainer of 4,377, currently held by Dermot Weld.

It also brings his tally of Grade 1s for the season to 33, one shy of the record he currently holds.

The 7/4 favourite, owned by Marie Donnelly, had previously won the Nathaniel Lacy Solicitors’ Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival and after finishing third in the Albert Bartlett won by Stellar Story, he stayed on dourly to bag the Sefton at Aintree.

It was a big ask for the Borris point-to-point maiden winner to back up once more but Dancing City answered every call from the saddle by Paul Townend to bring the six-time champion to within five winners of Jack Kennedy, who is pursuing a maiden title and had to settle for fourth here on Stellar Story.

“He had a hard race in Aintree and he’s danced every dance so to turn up here and perform again was a big performance,” said Townend. “He was disappointing at the start of his career but he’s more than making up for it now.

He never works too hard

“I was hoping he would come alive (in the back straight). In Aintree when I left the back straight I thought I was stuffed and by the time I got into the straight I was back on the bridle. So he is a little bit deceiving and he doesn’t kill himself in front.

“I got all mixed up with reins wrapped around my hand and everything so all I could do was try not to interfere with him and he stuck it out well.

“He is very deceiving. I was actually going riding another one in Aintree and he got withdrawn on the day. These things can work for the best sometimes. I thought I bottomed him in Aintree – we came up the straight pretty slow – but he bounced out of it well. He’s a tough horse. He’s a good horse.”

“It was a good run from the second. He was more disappointing in Cheltenham but he’s bounced back and he’s a nice horse too.”

Townend, sporting a plaster under his chin after a fall from Gentleman De Mee in the Boylesports Champion Chase yesterday, is looking forward to his holidays but has some mouth-watering engagements between now and Saturday.

“It feels like it’s the end of a season, and it is, but we’re okay,” he said of the aches and pains, and bumps and bruises. “Winners help.”

Race against time

Townend’s bid to close the deficit on Kennedy didn’t get off to a great start as he approached the final flight in both the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series Final and the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle looking to hold all the aces, but eventually having to settle for minor money.

In the former, a terrible blunder put paid to Blizzard Of Oz’s chances, and Backtonormal (7/1) took the spoils on his first run for Gavin Cromwell, having transferred from the Mags Mullins yard, with Seán Flanagan deputising for the injured Keith Donoghue.

Answer To Kayf, who had travelled strongly throughout, stayed on strongly once more after being passed to be second, with Blizzard Of Oz eventually fading to fourth.

In the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle, Townend was wearing the same double green silks of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, this time on even money favourite, Mistergif. On this occasion, Townend elicited a splendid jump at the last but the well backed Gorgeous Tom (4/1) was spring-heeled too and found more to score for trainer Henry de Bromhead and jockey Darragh O’Keeffe.

The opening contest of the day, the Adare Manor Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle went to the champion conditional jockey-elect, Danny Gilligan, who recorded a smooth success on 17/2 shot Harsh, for owners Gigginstown House Stud and trainer Joseph O’Brien.

This was the final race of the season-long series, sponsored by JP McManus, with Ben Harvey the overall winner of the jockeys’ category and Philip Rothwell claiming the trainer’s prize for the second time.