China strikes Punchestown gold
China Rock made a swift reappearance pay as he triumphed in thetote.com Punchestown Gold Cup, the big race on the final day of the Festival meeting.
Mouse Morris's nine-year-old was making his second appearance after finishing fourth in the two-mile Champion Chase at the track on Tuesday, and was stepping back up in trip to three miles and a furlong.
Barry Geraghty was clearly cruising aboard the 20-1 outsider as front-running favourite Quel Esprit tried to kick clear turning for home, and he bided his time before launching his challenge at the second-last. China Rock picked up in style and repelled last year's winner Follow The Plan by five lengths.
China Rock was sporting a first-time tongue tie and Morris thought it had made all the difference in his quick run back.
He said: "It's nice to win a Grade One and that's magic, although he's the magician, not me. He wasn't going to win anything sat at home so I thought I'd bring him here. There were only seven or eight runners and there was great prize money down to sixth, I thought we might get four grand for coming fourth.
"He had a problem and we couldn't find it. I thought he might have bled the other day, but he didn't so we tried a tongue-tie. It made all the difference.
"He was travelling well in the (Cheltenham) Gold Cup and he fell into a hole, he was travelling reasonable enough the other day over two miles and he fell into a hole again, he just wasn't getting home, so it was obviously a wind problem. We don't know what it is yet obviously, but the wind was the problem.
"He broke down 13 months ago and did well to get back. He travelled well in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, but then fell in a hole and I was waiting for the same to happen today."
Geraghty added: "He won on merit. He jumped and travelled away and just kept travelling. As we turned away from the last ditch, I was letting the two lads off in front trying to fill up a little bit (give him a breather) and secure third, but as we pressed on to the second-last, I was travelling better than the two in front.
"He has been competitive in very good races, he has been at this level before, but he just hasn't been of late. Mouse put a tongue tie on him. He jumped and he travelled and he saw out the race, where he hasn't been seeing out his races in the past. Mouse told me as it's been a while since I've ridden him."