Wednesday 17 January 2018

Weapon's fires in RSA romp

Michael O'Leary owned Weapons Amnesty winner of the RSA Chase Photo: PA
Michael O'Leary owned Weapons Amnesty winner of the RSA Chase Photo: PA

Weapon's Amnesty secured back-to-back Cheltenham Festival victories when running amok in the RSA Chase.

Sent off at 10-1, having claimed just one of his previous five starts over fences, the Charles Byrnes-trained gelding nailed a sparkling double after landing the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle 12 months ago.

The seven-year-old travelled strongly throughout in the hands of Davy Russell and moved smoothly into contention down the hill.

Citizen Vic was still in front jumping the second-last but took a crashing fall, after which Weapon's Amnesty quickly went to the lead and powered up the hill to score by seven lengths.

The Nicky Henderson-trained Long Run could not quicken in the straight and was eventually caught by stablemate Burton Port on the run-in for second.

The disappointment of the race was last year's World Hurdle runner-up Punchestowns, also trained by Henderson, who was beaten a long way from home.

Byrnes said: "It just shows that this horse is better round here than anywhere else.

"He'd been a bit lazy in his preparation but he's done it today and Davy is just the man for this kind of race.

"It will be doubtful you'd see him again this season. Please God, he'll be back here next year for the Gold Cup.

"Anything is possible and the dream is still alive."

Winning owner Michael O'Leary, the boss of Ryanair, said: "It was unbelievable, I didn't think we had any chance today and thought the ex-French horse (Long Run) looked very hot, and Punchestowns too.

"It was a brilliant ride by Davy Russell and I think he's proved what a fantastic jockey he is.

"He won here at the Festival last year but Albert Bartlett winners tend not to come back again.

"I thought we were hopeful in the Triumph later on in the week (Carlito Brigante) and while Charles had a disappointment with Solwhit (in the Champion Hurdle) yesterday, he's done a great job with this horse."

Sam Waley-Cohen, the rider of Long Run, said: "I felt that in order to get him jumping I needed to ask him to stand off one, but it was always difficult getting him to settle.

"Obviously we are very disappointed that he didn't win, but ultimately he's a five-year-old and needs to grow up a bit."

Tony McCoy said of runner-up Burton Port: "He was flat-out all the way but, to be fair to him, he came home well."

Henderson said of his three runners: "Long Run lunged at a couple, but he's only a baby and we will iron those kinks out.

"Unfortunately Punchestowns lost a shoe off the foot that was giving us the problem, and that obviously doesn't help.

"But Burton Port has run so well it's not true - without the other two (Long Run and Punchestowns) you'd have fancied your chances anyway with him."

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