God's Own delivers Champion triumph for George and Brennan at Punchestown
God's Own emerged triumphant after a thrilling climax to the BoyleSports Champion Chase on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival.
Tom George's eight-year-old, a winner at the prestigious meeting two years ago, returned to Ireland following what was widely regarded as a fortuitous win in the Melling Chase at Aintree following the shock fall of the Willie Mullins-trained superstar Vautour.
The pair did battle once more in this two-mile Grade One and Vautour was unsurprisingly a warm order to get back on the winning trail as the 4-9 favourite.
With Special Tiara adopting his customary front-running role, Vautour and God's Own sat in his slipstream, just ahead of the talented but fragile Simonsig. T he leading quartet pulled clear from the home turn and there was little to choose between all four jumping the second-last fence.
God's Own and Simonsig looked set to fight it out over the final obstacle and it was Paddy Brennan's mount who found most for pressure to claim victory by two lengths.
Vautour did stay on late in the day to grab the runner-up spot, with Simonsig running a fantastic race to finish third on his first start since November and his first outing over fences in more than three years.
Brennan said: "For the first mile I had no control and I just let him go, but to be fair he came back then and I filled him up. He was awesome today.
"All credit to Richie Galway (clerk of the course) - the ground out there is probably the nicest ground I've ridden on this year. It's great to ride a big one on my home turf. This is where I'm from and it's a proud day."
George said: "He's won here before and likes going right-handed. We've had to step up his work since Aintree as he was putting weight on."
Vautour's owner Rich Ricci suggested his charge is likely to stick to longer distances next season.
He said: "He looked flat to me. He never had a good cut at his fences all the way round. He stayed on at the end, but I talked to Ruby (Walsh) and he said he just wasn't himself, so it was probably one race too many.
"I would say two and a half (miles) or two-mile-five (furlongs) suits him, that's probably his trip. Maybe (he could go for) the Gold Cup, we'll have to go through the whole rigmarole again."
Walsh added: "He was flat out the whole way over that trip."