Brilliant Un De Sceaux runs rivals ragged for spectacular success
Un De Sceaux left Willie Mullins wondering whether he could have won him a first Queen Mother Champion Chase after producing the kind of spectacular performance in the Ryanair Chase that had been expected of Douvan in the Wednesday feature.
Last year's Champion Chase runner-up moved up in distance at Cheltenham this season, so avoiding a clash with his illustrious stablemate, who finished lame when beaten at 2-9.
And he proved in a different league to his opponents as he put them to the sword, sealing victory with some breathtaking jumping before easing over the line a length and a half clear of Sub Lieutenant, with Aso third.
Mullins said: "He's everything you'd want in a racehorse: brave, strong and sound. He's an iron horse.
Un De Sceaux, second to Sprinter Sacre at last year's festival, was sometimes bold and occasionally guessy at this fences but generally slick.
Mullins continued: "When he put in that jump at the first I had memories of yesterday with Douvan. I thought if he keeps doing this he's never going to come home. But he just seems to find reserves from I don't know where."
Walsh managed to hold up Un De Sceaux over the first four fences but he could not restrain him any further as the horse bullied his way to the front. They were five lengths clear and cruising after the eighth. Gradually they had the rest under pressure and were not going to be caught over the last two fences.
"I thought if I get through the first half-mile with him behind the bridle and he decided to run away then I'd gone far enough to get him home," said Walsh.
"I kind of knew he'd run away with me at some stage. He jumped super; I was only keeping a leg either side of him."
"I've been thinking about that too," said Mullins. "We made our choice a long time ago and unless something happened to Douvan I think we did the right thing.
"You'd rather have Ruby on both horses and if you were to run them against one another you don't have that. He's a very valuable asset to have at a meeting like this."
In winning a second successive Ryanair, Mullins relegated Sub Lieutenant's owner Michael O'Leary of Gigginstown House Stud and the race sponsor, to yet another runner-up finish. Earlier this season Mullins and O'Leary split when the airline boss took away 60 horses.
Reversal of fortune
Mullins and Walsh had drawn a blank over the first two days but took the JLT Novices' Chase with Yorkhill and followed this success with Nichols Canyon in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle and Let's Dance in the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle in a spectacular reversal of fortune. Certainly, the irony of this particular outcome was not lost on O'Leary.
"There's a certain inevitability Willie Mullins is going to win a bundle of races at Cheltenham, so there's a reasonable prospect he's going to win the Ryanair," said O'Leary. "Un De Sceaux was favourite."
O'Leary added: "It's my fifth second in ten years. There's a secret to winning this race – stop sponsoring the bloody thing! I'm not having any joy trying to win my own money back.
"But I'm delighted for Ruby and Willie, they had a bad day yesterday. They just didn't have to be so greedy on Ryanair day!"