Quito De La Roque Claims Down Royal Spoils
1 Quito De La Roque 11/4F
Quito De La Roque marked himself as an early Cheltenham Gold Cup contender with a stunning last-gasp victory in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Winner of his last four races, including a Grade One event at the Punchestown Festival, Quito De La Roque was sent off the 11-4 favourite for the Grade One event, despite trainer Colm Murphy having revealed the horse suffered a setback just a few weeks ago.
That looked to have taken its toll as Davy Russell was sending out the distress signals some way from home in the three-mile contest, as first Midnight Chase and then Sizing Europe led the field. Andrew Lynch took control aboard the latter before the ninth fence, as the Queen Mother Champion Chase winner pull his way to the front.
Paul Nicholls' The Nightingale appeared to be the main challenger four fences from home, with Paul Carberry aboard after intended rider Noel Fehily was unable to make the trip due to the weather. Carberry looked to have a chance at the second-last as Sizing Europe brushed through the top and Midnight Chase came to grief, but all the while Quito De La Roque was staying on.
Sizing Europe was thoroughly on top approaching the last but the petrol tank emptied, as Quito De La Roque shrugged off a slight mistake at the fence to power to the line and complete a seemingly impossible victory. Russell actually took a pull before the line in winning by a length and a quarter with The Nightingale back in third.
Murphy said: "To win was a bonus. He wasn't as fresh as we would have liked today. Three weeks ago he had a leg problem and we had to knock the sparks out of him to get here. He had a hard race today though so we'll have to revise his programme now.
"He'll probably go for the Lexus at Leopardstown at Christmas - I've never had a runner in that race. The John Durkan at Punchestown could come a bit quick but he'll get an entry. He's a pure gutsy horse. He kept going when the rest were stopping today. We'll see if there's a five-mile race for him anywhere! He's as tough as nails."
Winning owner Michael O'Leary, who campaigns the horse in his Gigginstown House Stud colours, added: "That was the ride of the season from Davy Russell. I was shouting at him to pull him up a circuit out."
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