Coney Island strikes to lead home McManus one-two
Coney Island, the only horse in the seven-runner line-up without a win over fences, led home a one-two for owner JP McManus by beating Anibale Fly by two and a half lengths.
A race won by Don Cossack in 2013, Valseur Lido in 2014 and the ill-fated No More Heroes 12 months ago, all in the maroon colours of Gigginstown, McManus was enjoying his first success in the event since Le Coudray scored in 2002.
Runner-up on his chasing debut at Punchestown last month, Coney Island, a dual winner over hurdles, won comfortably and rider Mark Walsh reported: "He jumped and travelled great and felt like a winner a long way out."
Trainer Eddie Harty said of the five-year-old: "He's won like a proper horse and that's what I hope he is. It was a case of running him in another beginners' chase or giving him a shot at this Grade 1 and we made the right choice.
"I don't blame Barry [Geraghty] for riding Anibale Fly instead of our fellow as he had won his beginners' chase and our horse hadn't. I gave Coney Island a better chance than his price last night and this morning suggested as, on Racing Post Ratings, he was quite well in although having a bit to find with A Toi Phil.
"He might go for the three-mile Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting and if he doesn't go there he could wait for the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase there in February. He stays well but he also has a lot of toe, so we'll have plenty of options.
Tony Martin, trainer of Anibale Fly, said: "I'm happy. He's run a good race. They got away from us a bit but he stayed on well."
Alpha Des Obeaux, on whom Mark Enright made most of the the running, was two and a quarter lengths back in third, giving the impression that going back up in trip will suit.
Diamond King, the 9-4 favourite, looked held when blundering at the final fence and trainer Gordon Elliott said: "He just ran out of petrol. He needs better ground, so I'm not too disappointed. A Toi Phil (sixth) had an off day and after his two wins last month this might have been a race too many. We'll freshen him up and make a plan.