Flame Bearer and Paul Townend win the Pierce Molony Memorial Novice Steeplechase Grade 3 © Photo Healy Racing
Flame Bearer returned to something like his best when running out an emphatic winner of the Grade 3 Pierce Molony Memorial Novice Chase at Thurles.
Having run below par on his last two starts, the Willie Mullins trained gelding was sent off at odds against here in a race where, if on song, he was the class act in the field.
Paul Townend got the eight-year-old into a nice rhythm early on, allowing him every chance to find his feet and warm to the task. Taking up the running after the third last, the pair bounded clear for an impressive victory. Upping The Anti stayed on well for second, with Sole Pretender back in third place.
Paul Townend said: "I thought after he ran the last day that he would be better left go along (in front) and he got into a better rhythm jumping - he still needs to brush up a bit but he knows where his feet are and he likes being left to do that.
"He has a mistake in him but he warmed up to it quite well and turned around form with Indiana Jones "
He added "every winner in Cheltenham is special but the Gold Cup is the Gold Cup and it has an extra spice about it, with plenty of pressure riding a horse being so well fancied. It was brilliant the way it worked out."
Additional reporting by Thomas Weekes