Zabana lands Champion Novice prize for Lynch and Russell
Zabana gained sweet compensation for the unfortunate mishap he suffered at the Cheltenham Festival by claiming the Growise Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown.
Andrew Lynch's stable star was considered a major contender for the JLT Novices' Chase at Prestbury Park last month, but his race was over before it began after he unseated Davy Russell when the tapes went up, much to the jockey's annoyance.
Sent off at 7-2 for his latest Grade One assignment, Zabana was ridden positively throughout and remained in a slender lead rounding the home turn.
The challengers, which included Grand National hero Rule The World, were queuing up approaching the second fence from the finish, but Lynch's charge jumped it well to keep up the momentum.
Favourite Outlander emerged as the biggest threat on the run-in, but Zabana was always doing enough and held him at bay by two lengths. Sub Lieutenant finished third, with Rule The World back in sixth.
Russell said: "There was plenty of hassle with the loose horse (Ballychorus), but when I let him roll along he jumped great.
"When we went to Cheltenham, (we were) thinking he was going to run a big race and this justifies it.
"He loved the bit of nicer ground and he stayed well on it."
Winning owner Chris Jones said: "I'm delighted for everyone and it's a dream come true.
"The Cheltenham thing was a low point, but to come back from that and for it all to fall into place was great. I'm thrilled.
"We knew the horse had a great chance, we just needed the ground and today he got it."
Lynch, who has just five horses in training, said: "He was nearly gone at the first but only missed one after that. After Cheltenham he seemed to sulk and went off everything, but in the last three weeks he came right. He wants that ground and is a really good horse.
"We'll let him off now and make a man of him for next year. He'll strengthen up again as he's only seven. He might start off here in the John Durkan (Memorial Punchestown Chase).
"In Cheltenham my heart sank. You would love to do it there, but it's lovely to win here as well. When the loose horse came across, I thought here comes our (bad) luck again."