Mar 15 2012
Sir Des Champs put down a Gold Cup marker for next year after maintaining his unbeaten record for Willie Mullins with a clear-cut victory in the Jewson Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The six-year-old, ridden by Davy Russell, shrugged off the attentions of the always prominent Champion Court after the last to bound clear for a convincing four-and-a-half-length success.
For Non Stop was another nine lengths back in third, while fancied runners Peddlers Cross and Cristal Bonus were both disappointing as Sir Des Champs (3-1) proved a classy winner.
Russell, carrying the familiar colours of Gigginstown House Stud, the racing establishment of Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, said: "He's a very good horse.
"A lot of the credit should go to Aaron Madden, who absolutely adores this horse, and since the first day he landed he's looked after him and he's done such a wonderful job. He jumped every fence, he never missed a beat."
Owner O'Leary added: "It was a wonderful ride by Davy. We've been hitting the crossbar all week so it's great to finally stick one in the net. Willie brought him along slowly and probably thought he wanted a lot further - he could have run in the other race (RSA Chase). We went close in that with First Lieutenant, but we've won this."
Mullins said: "He was very good and I'm really looking forward to next year over longer trips. He was foot-perfect. Davy asked him plenty of questions and he came up every time. Davy rode him with great confidence. A good pace and plenty of jumping will suit him best."
Sir Des Champs was winning at the Festival for a second consecutive year, having struck 12 months ago in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle.
Mullins went on: "This is the first time he's had a real test this year as Gigginstown have had so many good novice chasers so we've kept him going out in the country in lesser races. That has obviously built up his confidence, because he was very good. Hopefully it will be the Gold Cup next year."
Trainer Donald McCain said of Peddlers Cross: "I think we'll have to go back over hurdles. Jason (Maguire) said he was neat and grand, but just isn't as effective over fences. It was still the right idea to try it and his work has been as good as ever - he worked all over Overturn (Champion Hurdle runner-up) last week."