Apache swoops at Leopardstown
Apache Stronghold gained revenge on Valseur Lido in a ding-dong battle for the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
Noel Meade's charge had been beaten eight lengths by Willie Mullins' runner in the Drinmore 10 weeks earlier, but turned the tables under a typical Paul Carberry ride.
In the rear early on as Tony McCoy and Jarry D'Honneur set the pace, Apache Stronghold (9-2) only came into the race at the business end and jumped the last with Valseur Lido. He got on top on the run-in to get the verdict by half a length from Valseur Lido, with the latter's stablemate Adriana Des Mottes third.
Carberry, who celebrates his 41st birthday on Monday, said: "I took the shortest route. Down the back he wasn't flying his fences. I had to wait for him to come to me and once he got the gap he flew. He winged the last and kept his head down all the way to the line.
"He jumped very well the last day but he has a real good cruising speed and I just had to keep taking him back, which I didn't want to do today. He wasn't getting the same jumps today (mid-race) but he got them when I needed them.
"This is our big hope. When he won in Navan (in November 2013) I thought he'd keep me going for a Gold Cup some day, so he's worth going on for."
Meade said: "When he ran at Christmas (second to Don Poli) everyone was telling me 'he ran great, he ran great' but there was no one more disappointed than I was at Christmas because I really had great belief in him.
"I don't know whether the other horse was better than him or he didn't get the trip. I'd have to be thinking in terms of the JLT now - I'll see what Paul (Carberry) has to say - but I'd say we'd have to think that way.
"He's a lovely looking horse, he's easy to love - all you have to do is look at him. I was watching him going around the parade ring and he'd do you good looking at him. He nice to watch every morning. I picked him up for 15,500 euro at the Land Rover sales, money well spent!
"I'm delighted for Paul (Hunt, owner) too - he's been a great supporter and it's great for him to win a race like this."
There was a sad postscript as Le Vent D'Antan suffered a fatal injury in his last-fence fall.