He looked all out at the line, but still the suspicion persists that we have yet to see the very best of Sir Des Champs. Certainly, Willie Mullins viewed a thrilling success here not so much as consolation for his defeat in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month, but rather as a new spur to the belief he could still turn things round with his conqueror, Bobs Worth, in the same race next year. While at pains not to be too specific, Ireland's champion trainer evidently feels things conspired against Sir Des Champs at Cheltenham – and that different going, and tactics perhaps, could also yield a different result.
Conditions were again pretty demanding in the Punchestown Gold Cup, but Sir Des Champs showed courage to match his class to stem a terrific rally from the evergreen Long Run. Sam Waley-Cohen, on the runner-up, had given singular new evidence of his flair by catching his whip even as it flipped away over his shoulder. Davy Russell responded with a flat-out drive of his own, clinging on by three-quarters of a length after going a couple clear two out, with the gallant First Lieutenant only another half down in third.
"I was disappointed the ground changed at Cheltenham," Mullins said. "But hopefully he'll be around for another go next year and we might adjust things a bit. He's improving, and somehow keeps looking big in himself."
Sir Des Champs had been ridden by Tony McCoy at Cheltenham after Russell suffered a lung injury. At least one person, then, was duly able to view it as compensation. "I struggled to move him up the back," Russell said. "I thought Cheltenham had taken its toll. But then he completely filled up again and had loads left between the last two. I always knew he was tough physically, but today he showed it mentally too."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Cross The Boss (6.50 Newcastle) Dangerously handicapped for a trainer prospering with recruits.
High Office (3.35 Beverley) Has a history of excelling first time out and looks sure to do so once again for his in-form stable.
One to watch
Professor (Richard Hannon) Had to weave through from the back when an excellent fourth on his return at Newmarket last week.