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Last Updated: 22/04/10 7:32pm
Quevega (left) - impressive victory.
Punchestown king Willie Mullins captured his fourth Grade One of the week and his sixth success overall as star mare Quevega got every inch of the three-mile trip in the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle.
Mullins is well on track to equal his 12 victories at the big meeting last year and Quevega was the easiest of winners in the highlight of day three when obliging as the 5-2 favourite under Paul Townend.
And such was the manner of her success that sponsors Ladbrokes gave her just a 5-1 quote to topple current staying champion, Big Buck's, in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham next March.
The six-year-old returned from an injury sustained in France last May to earn a repeat win in the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham last month and was the number one choice of racegoers stepped up in trip.
Good enough to finish third to Solwhit and Punjabi over two miles here last spring, Quevega was always hacking along under Townend - who again benefited from the injury Ruby Walsh sustained at Aintree on Grand National day.
The youngster afforded himself a glance under his left arm rounding the turn and the partnership soon forged clear.
Bensalem looked a menacing threat switched back to timber after an unsuccessful chasing campaign and proved best of the rest by relegating Mullins' Mourad back to third with his three-length second.
Mullins was winning the race for the third time and followed up Fiveforthree's success of 12 months ago.
He said: "That was terrific. Paul said he was confident all the way round and that she stayed the trip no problem.
"Her dam had won a few cross-country races so we thought she had a bit of stamina in her, but you never know until you try.
"The way she finished up the hill at Cheltenham also suggested she had plenty of stamina.
"She has the class to go back over two miles, as she showed when finishing third in the Champion Hurdle here last year.
"I might enter her over two miles at some point next season depending on which races are there and when we start her off.
"However, it wouldn't worry me going straight to Cheltenham, or just having one run before, as we have done the last couple of years.
"She did get an injury in France last summer and it is at the back of my mind that too much racing may aggravate that.
"I don't know if she'll go back to France or not this year. The prize-money is fantastic so I am tempted, but we'll see how she comes out of this.
"Mourad ran a cracker and is still only a five-year-old.
"He used his petrol trying to beat Quevega and did well to finish third.
"He is one to look forward to next season and I may run him on the Flat before bringing him back next spring as he is not a real winter horse."
Bensalem fared the best of Alan King's two runners, with stablemate Karabak weakening to eighth.
The high-class novice signed off 2010 on a positive note for the trainer after a season blighted by viruses at his Barbury Castle stables.
He said: "I'm absolutely thrilled with that. It's a great way to end the season and the winner is an exceptional mare.
"I would love to have won, but you can't be disappointed finishing second to her.
"We'll have to have a think about what we do next season as he's on a good mark over fences.
"If we decide to go down that route the Hennessy would be an option, but this run has opened up other options and we could stay hurdling with him."