Brave Bob is all Gold
Boston Bob stormed home in the hands of Ruby Walsh to claim victory in the Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup.
An impressive winner of the Melling Chase at Aintree three and a half weeks ago, the Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old was the 5-2 favourite to claim another Grade One prize as he stepped back up in trip.
First Lieutenant travelled powerfully in the first-time blinkers and was the first of the main protagonists to commit for home, but Boston Bob reeled him in after the final fence to take top honours under a jubilant Walsh. Long Run finished third.
Paul Townend partnered the Mullins-trained On His Own, whom Walsh snubbed in favour of Boston Bob, but the Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up faded tamely out of contention after taking the field along for much of the three-mile-one-furlong journey.
Boston Bob travelled notably well throughout, with Walsh seemingly keen to play his cards as late as possible. He was slightly awkward on landing at the final fence, but soon regained his momentum and was well on top at the line, scoring by three and a quarter lengths.
First Lieutenant ran a superb race in second, with the application of headgear clearly having the desired effect. Last year's runner-up Long Run bounced back from his fall in the Grand National at Aintree with a decent effort in third, finishing just ahead of fellow British raider Medermit.
Walsh said: "I have to thank Willie. I never thought I'd be siding with On His Own over Boston Bob, but I rode them both the other morning and I was definitely leaning On His Own's way. On Monday morning I was talking to Willie and he fairly convinced me to ride this lad, so thanks to him.
"He ducked and I nearly fell off him (in the straight). He was a bit deliberate at the second-last and wasn't great at the last. He hung left, quickened up and won."
Mullins said: "Boston Bob is just improving. I thought he'd been unlucky twice at Cheltenham, but he's got his reward for what he shows me at home.
"I was disappointed with On His Own, who needed a bit of company and his jumping went to pieces.
"I'm thinking of the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris for On His Own and I think we'll bring Boston Bob back next season and aim him for the (Cheltenham) Gold Cup."
Long Run's trainer Nicky Henderson was thrilled with his charge and is eyeing a return to Aintree next spring.
He said: "It was a good race and I think that was the best round of jumping I've ever seen from him. You keep bumping into the same people in Grade Ones, but there's no other option. The way he jumped and finished, you'd say why not go for the Grand National again next year?"