Weapon's Amnesty defuses two-horse race for Henderson

'Flighty' Irish prospect takes wing to soar beyond Long Run and Punchestowns
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The Independent Online

If Punchestowns and Long Run, the eclipsed market leaders for the RSA Chase here yesterday, were the second comings, what sort of a horse does that make Weapon's Amnesty, who scampered gaily away from them up the finishing hill? Or even their own Nicky Henderson stablemate Burton Port, who snatched second place in the final strides?

The three-mile novices' contest was supposed to be a two-horse affair, but the hubris of Henderson's pre-race phrase "could be the best chasers I've ever trained" was laid bare by events on the track. Punchestowns came in only fifth, and never looked like winning; Long Run did better in third place, having led briefly three out.

But Weapon's Amnesty, seven lengths clear at the line, was the horse for the course. The rangy chestnut won a novices' hurdle at the meeting last year and will have the Gold Cup as his target 12 months hence. "He loves it here," said his rider, Davy Russell. "At Thurles on a Thursday, say, he's a sleepy sort, but as soon as he came into the parade ring today his eyes lit up. He knows he's here to do a proper job. And if he's a bit flighty, I'd always rather have to settle him than to wake him up."

Flighty is appropriate; the seven-year-old carries the colours of Ryanair's owner, Michael O'Leary. "I respected what Nicky said about Long Run and Punchestowns," said the winning trainer, Charles Byrnes, "but I was sure mine would run well. He had been progressive all season and today he had all the things in place for a mighty run; the track, the distance, the ground and the big occasion."

For Byrnes, the victory was some compensation for the defeat on Tuesday of his Co Limerick stable's much-fancied Solwhit in the Champion Hurdle. For Henderson, who reported that Punchestowns finished sore after losing a shoe, compensation came more swiftly, as the 14-1 shot Spirit River and jockey Barry Geraghty led home 27 rivals in the Coral Cup barely an hour later.

The RSA Chase is established as a signpost to future elite talent over fences; Weapon's Amnesty is now 8-1 for next year's Gold Cup with the sponsors Totesport and last year's winner Cooldine is third favourite for tomorrow's running. The Grade One novices hurdle now run under the Neptune Investment Management banner offers a similar guide; such as Denman and Forpadydeplasterer have been on its podium. Yesterday's 7-1 winner Peddlers Cross, confidently ridden by Jason Maguire, took his unbeaten run to five with an emphatic defeat of Reve De Sivola and favourite Rite Of Passage.

The closing Champion Bumper produced only the fourth successful home defence in 18 runnings, and at a shocker of a price too as the 40-1 shot Cue Card, from the Tizzard family's yard in Dorset, powered up the hill to score by eight lengths.