A vintage renewal of the Lexus Chase produced a memorable finish with Tidal Bay
coming with his customary late charge to run out a thrilling winner.
5/4 favourite Flemenstar looked all over the winner as he cruised into the lead before the final fence in the three-mile feature.
The fuel started to run out on the run-in, however, as First Lieutenant chased him down.
Just as Mouse Morris' charge had headed him in the closing stages the pair were trumped in the shadow of the post as Tidal Bay came between them.
The English raider got up for a head success in a tight finish. There was just half a length back to Flemenstar while Sir Des Champs also stayed on strongly on the run-in to be just denied a place in fourth.
“I was cussing Ruby four out as I thought he had given him too much to do. The extra two furlongs at Cheltenham will suit him well. He’s in the form of his life for an 11-year-old. Roll on Cheltenham,” trainer Paul Nicholls said.
"He knows where the winning post is. He comes with a real rattle and had the right man riding him. You have to ride him like that. He wouldn’t want fast ground at Cheltenham, but we have two good options at Cheltenham in the Gold Cup and World Hurdle. Silviniaco Conti might go for the Irish Hennessy."
A delighted Ruby Walsh added: “He jumped the second last well. I thought coming to the last I had a chance He landed flat after the last, but then he flew. It’s a long run and a very stiff finish. It was a good gallop and a true run race and the best horse wins.
"It’s a true race. You have to stay. I’m glad it was a test as it suited me. A hundred yards down I thought I was getting there. I’d love to ride him in the World Hurdle with no Big Bucks. He would have too much weight in the National.
“I’m looking forward to Hurricane Fly tomorrow. He’s in great nick and Willie’s having a good week so hopefully it will continue. He’s improved since Punchestown."
Peter Casey said of Flemenstar: “He pulled too hard Andrew said. Maybe it would have been better if he had gone off in front. I don’t think it was too far for him today. He boiled over a little bit. We had a job putting a saddle on him. He wasn’t settled. Andrew said we’ll have to go for the Hennessy and you have to do what the jockey says."
The win gave Ruby Walsh an 81/1 treble at Leopardstown today.
Stan James have Sir Des Champs at 8/1 from 6/1 for the Gold Cup, while Tidal Bay has halved from 20/1 to 10/1. Flemenstar has been pushed out to 12/1 from 5/1. First Lieutenant is also on 12/1 from 16s. Their favourite is Bobs Worth at 11/4 from 4/1.
Boylesports have introduced Tidal Bay at 12/1 for the Gold Cup. They have pushed out Sir Des Champs from 11/2 to 8/1. Flemenstar is 16/1 and Bobs Worth is their market leader at 5/2.
Paddy Power have Sir Des Champs unchanged at 6/1, while Flemenstar is 10/1 from 6s and Tidal Bay is also 10/1, but from 18/1. Bobs Worth is their 3/1 favourite.
(Additional reporting by Michael Graham)