China Rock has his finest hour with Gold Cup win
Report: Punchestown, Saturday
thetote.com Punchestown Gold Cup (Grade 1) 3m1f, 5yo+
CHINA ROCK, who ran as recently as Tuesday on day one of the festival, recorded the first success of his career over 3m in a thrilling Gold Cup.
The first-time tongue-tie clearly did the trick for 20-1 shot as he kept on well enough under Barry Geraghty to hold off the challenge of Follow The Plan. The 15-8 favourite and long-time leader Quel Esprit finished third.
The Mouse Morris-trained winner was stepping back up to this distance having been beaten 24 lengths into fourth spot behind Sizing Europe in Tuesday's 2m Champion Chase.
With this race scheduled for Wednesday, China Rock wasn't even orginally declared, but with the weather gods pushing this race back to the final day of the festival connections took advantage of the race reopenin.
With the tongue-tie and Geraghty's services, everthing fell into place. The nine-year-old has always been a good horse. Indeed, he was travelling as well as the likes of Kauto Star, Long Run and Denman when breaking down in last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup and ran well for a long way in that race again last month. Stamina has always been his Achilles' Heel, but this keen-going chaser saw his race out much better.
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"We did well to get him back when he broke down 13 months ago," said Morris. "I thought he was beat, but he wasn't, and the tongue-tie has made all the difference."
In what was a tremendous contest, both leaders Quel Esprit and Rubi Light had upped the ante from the second circuit and the pair had seen off all bar the first and second going to two out.
Rubi Light was the first to crack, and once Quel Esprit had cried enough it was a question of whether China Rock would last out from the challenging Follow The Plan - he did.
It was Geraghty's fourth win in the race and his third of the week. Adding to his success at Cheltenham and Aintree, he's had quite a season.