Rebel Fitz, Lyreen Legend, Dedigout and Colour Squadron jump the lastPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Masterful Russell guides Dedigout to victory
Report: Punchestown, Friday
Cathal Ryan Memorial Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m4f, 4yo+
DAVY RUSSELL was at his very best as he snuck Dedigout into contention, jumping into the lead between runners at the last before pulling clear on the run in.
Settled towards the rear, Russell made stealthy headway off the home bend and with four in the air together at the last, things looked wide open.
Russell said: "I might have struggled if any of those in front of me hadn't kept straight but luckily all of them did and I was able to go through the gap.
"All of the credit goes to Tony Martin. This horse had disappointed in his work a couple of times but we put a tongue-tie on him and decided to ride him with a bit more patience. It all worked out."
Russell asserted after the last, putting the race to bed in a matter of strides, and in doing so Dedigout became the third horse to win a Grade 1 this season for trainer Tony Martin.
Martin said: "I wanted to go for the three miler but the lads said that 2m 4f was plenty far enough for him on this ground. On his Naas run against Monksland he had to have a chance.
"He missed a few hurdles and was still able to run Lyreen Legend close that day. He jumped nice and safe today and they were never going to be able to go quick enough on that ground to get away from him."
The champion jockey-elect, Russell has finished runner-up in the title race in each of the last five years but the strength of Gigginstown this year has finally seen him win the title.
Benefficient, a stablemate to Dedigout and another of Martin's Grade 1 winners this year, led the field along at a solid gallop given the conditions and he jumped left throughout before being swamped on the home bend by those held up.
Rebel Fitz, Lyreen Legend, Dedigout and Colour Squadron all took off for the last together in what was a thrilling finish to the 2m4f contest.
Paddy Power made the winner a 20-1 shot for RSA Chase success at the Cheltenham Festival next year.