Quito De La Roque and Paul Townend were impressive at Thurles
©Healy Racing Photos
This observer counted himself very firmly in the Quito De La Roque fan club but his last two efforts had me marking him down as 'finished.' How wrong can you be though as the French-bred bounced back to his best to land the Grade 2 Matty Ryan Memorial Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles.
Take a bow Paul Townend! The former champion jockey was aboard Colm Murphy's charge for the first-time and whatever the reason for his resurgence in form the Cork pilot didn't half get a tune from the Gigginstown House Stud-owned nine-year-old.
He ended up beating his fellow Michael O'Leary-owned contestant, the favourite, Roi Du Mee, by six and a half lengths.
Second in the betting, Days Hotel (suffered an over-reach on his off-fore) saw his hopes end when pecking at the third last. Another of the fancied ones, Foildubh had to pull up after being effectively put out of the race when badly hampered by Oscar Time's departure at the sixth fence.
Colm Murphy, the winning trainer, said: "He's had his fair share of niggley problems. They were nothing major but they had us stopping and starting with him.
"He ran well up North in the James Nicholson Chase but then things didn't happen for him. At Aintree things happened too quick for him so it's nice to be back on track.
"He's entered everywhere but he doesn't have too many options and I'll see what the lads say.
"The Hennessy and the Gold Cup are there for him and maybe he'll be a National horse. Time will tell and we'll dream on for a while."
Stan James go 50/1 from 100/1 about Quito De La Roque for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. (TW & EM)