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Banbridge pips Captain Guinness in Champion Chase thriller

Banbridge pips Captain Guinness in Champion Chase thriller
Banbridge pips Captain Guinness in Champion Chase thriller

Banbridge got up in the final stride to deny Captain Guinness a Champion Chase double in a pulsating renewal of the feature event on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival.

Nine runners went to post for the William Hill Champion Chase, with Mares’ Chase runner-up Dinoblue the 11-10 favourite to beat the boys and provide Willie Mullins with a sixth successive victory in this extended two-mile contest.

Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness was bidding to follow up victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on his most recent outing and looked likely to do so after taking over from the pacesetting Dysart Dynamo at the top of the home straight under Rachael Blackmore.

Mark Walsh was more vigorous in the saddle in behind aboard Dinoblue and while she did respond to pressure to close in on Captain Guinness at the final fence, she was unable to get on terms.

However, Captain Guinness was then reeled in by Joseph O’Brien’s fast-finishing 6-1 shot Banbridge on the run-in.

The eight-year-old, who had disappointed in a soft-ground Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, was sporting cheek pieces for the first time over this shorter trip and needed every yard of it to secure top honours by a neck in the hands of J J Slevin, with Dinoblue a further length and a quarter away in third.

“It was a fantastic race, a great two-mile chase, and a fantastic ride from JJ. I’m delighted for Ronnie (Bartlett, owner) and everyone to have a big winner here in Punchestown,” said O’Brien.

J J Slevin and Banbridge after winning at Punchestown
J J Slevin and Banbridge after winning at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

“It wasn’t our day in Cheltenham but we’re delighted to win a big race here today. He’s been a fantastic horse and Ronnie’s patience through the autumn when the ground wasn’t right for us was really what won the race for us today. We were ready to run and had to wait.

“We know what conditions the horse performs on, it’s pretty obvious when you look at all his runs. On better ground, his runs are all very good – and when it gets softer, for whatever reason, he doesn’t perform as well.

“We took the chance at Cheltenham because it’s Cheltenham, but it didn’t work out. We freshened him up to come here and I’m delighted to win a big race with him.”

Bartlett added: “He’s a great horse, it was a great race and he was trained to perfection. It’s going to be a quiet night tonight, early to bed!

“Two or three out, you were thinking he’d maybe be placed, but he showed some turn of foot over the last.”

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