Sir Des Champs holds off strong challenge at Punchestown
Long Run and First Lieutenant make it hard for Davy Russell on Willie Mullins’s charge
Jockey Davy Russell onboard Sir Des Champs clears the last fence ahead of jockey Sam Waley-Cohen on Long Run to win the Punchestown Gold Cup. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Jockey David Splaine on Beau Michael clears the last hurdle to win the first race of the day at Punchestown. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Morning Assembly under jockey Davy Condon (left) jumps the last to win ahead of Inish Island under jockey Paul Townend during the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire
Sir Des Champs hung on grimly in a thrilling finish to the Bet Online With TheTote.com Punchestown Gold Cup as Long Run and First Lieutenant came storming home.
Davy Russell made a positive move down the back straight, taking up the running off Long Run at the third-last and going two lengths clear .
There was not much between Sir Des Champs and Long Run at Cheltenham and yet again the pair proved they were closely matched, because as Sir Des Champs began to tire Long Run was coming hard at him after the last.
Over on the far side Mouse Morris’s consistent First Lieutenant, a winner at Aintree, also had a chance but Sir Des Champs, the 2-1 favourite, held on by three-quarters of a length from Long Run with First Lieutenant just behind in third.
Willie Mullins was winning the race for the first time in 11 years since Florida Pearl took the spoils.
Russell, who missed most of Cheltenham and all of Aintree, said: “I‘ve missed enough Grade One winners and that‘s important to Gigginstown and for myself. You always want to ride in big races and I wasn‘t disappointed in him at Cheltenham, it was a great run until the last 100 yards and I was very impressed by the winner.
“I was impressed when I rode him in the week, he‘s tough physically but he‘s proved he‘s mentally tough. I was tipping him along and I was worried that Cheltenham might have taken its toll. I was struggling to move him up on the back straight but he completely filled up again and I had loads left over the last two.”
Mullins said: “That was a great performance. I thought he looked big in the parade ring before the race and I thought we might have let him down too much after Cheltenham. I thought at the stone wall we were beat, but Davy got a breather into him and he was a different horse. Davy was very positive and he went for the race at the third-last.
“We‘ll be back to Cheltenham I hope, we might adjust a few little things next year. It was disappointing that the ground changed at Cheltenham but that’s racing, he‘s won the two biggest races in Ireland and has had a good season.”
Long Run’s owner Robert Waley-Cohen said: “He was beaten by a better horse on the day and that‘s the second time he‘s beaten us, but I think that‘s the best race he‘s run for a long time and he showed a lot of determination. We‘ll prepare for the King George again and make a plan for the second half of the season. He won‘t run in France.”
Morning Assembly provided Pat Fahy with his biggest win since 2004 when battling back to hold off Inish Island in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle .
Only seven went to post in the Grade One over three miles with Ballycasey all the rage for Willie Mullins but Ruby Walsh picked the wrong horse as it was Inish Island who came out ahead of his stablemate.
Morning Assembly was sent out some way out by Davy Condon but when Inish Island loomed up he looked booked for second. However, he showed a willing attitude to eventually run out an impressive winner at 14-1.
Fahy last won at the highest level with Mariah Rollins in the Durkan New Homes Novices’ Chase.
Dalasiri’s race experience over his rivals proved vital as he provided Barry Geraghty with his third winner of the week in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle .
After landing a huge gamble on his second start Sabrina Harty had thrown him in against some classy individuals where he has come up short.
He looked booked for second again as Gassin Golf, trained by Richard Lee in Herefordshire, swept through to take it up, despite running keen throughout on just his third start over timber.
However, that lack of experience showed at the last where he was slow and Geraghty threw Dalasiri at it and he responded, eventually running out a three-quarter-length winner at 6-1.
Ado McGuinness’s stable stalwart Beau Michael (25-1) captured the Martinstown Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle in a thrilling opening to day two of the Festival.
Having the 77th run of his career, Beau Michael had finished fourth in the race 12 months ago but had the assistance of David Splaine, one of the more experienced riders in the line up.
He had had three runs on the level since his last start over hurdles and made an early bid for home rounding the home turn.
Hazariban and The Crafty Butcher were closing after the last but Beau Michael held on narrowly.