Michael O'Leary flying high after ending long wait for Ryanair chase success

Michael O'Leary flying high after ending long wait for Ryanair chase success

Michael O'Leary was thrilled to finally get his hands on the Ryanair Chase trophy after Balko Des Flos ran out a dominant winner at Cheltenham in the hands of Davy Russell.

The Ryanair and Gigginstown House Stud supremo has tried his best to win the race he has sponsored since 2006, coming close on several occasions, with First Lieutenant (2013), Valseur Lido (2016) and Sub Lieutenant (2017) all filling the runner-up spot and subsequent Gold Cup hero Don Cossack (2015) finishing a luckless third.

Balko Des Flos, a clear winner of the Galway Plate last summer, was a general 8-1 chance to stop the rot after finishing second at 66-1 in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase.

With Cue Card, the Ryanair hero of five years ago, and defending champion Un De Sceaux in the field, Henry de Bromhead's charge looked to have plenty on his plate, but after Cue Card was pulled up a long way from home, Russell took dead aim at Un De Sceaux racing down the hill.

Willie Mullins' Un De Sceaux did all he could to maintain his advantage, but Balko Des Flos moved ominously alongside before the home turn and galloped four and a half lengths clear up the famous hill.

O'Leary, completing a treble on the card following the earlier victories of Shattered Love in the RSA Chase and Delta Work in the Pertemps Final, said: "It's taken me 15 years to win the Ryanair, so I'm going to enjoy it. I'm going to get seriously drunk upstairs in the next couple of hours!

"On a serious note, it's great for Henry. Henry has hit the bar a couple of times this week, so it's great to see him have a winner."

De Bromhead was equally delighted, adding: "It's fantastic and Davy gave him a brilliant ride.

"He won the Plate and was a bit disappointing in the autumn, but he ran a fantastic race at Christmas. People were knocking it a little bit, but I thought it was a savage run and thankfully he's shown it here.

"I thought the ground had gone us. It hasn't been raced on as much and it seemed nicer ground than yesterday, but I was still worried about it. I have to worry about something!

"Gigginstown are fantastic owners and we're very lucky to be supported by them.

"Michael is very happy to have won it and I'm delighted to be the one to get it for them."

Un De Sceaux's part-owner Colm O'Connell was proud of his effort in defeat.

He said: "We're delighted still, it looks like he's come back safe and sound, he's like a family pet so that is the most important thing.

"I see Cue Card pulled up but it looks like he's safe, too, which is what it's all about.

Michael has thrown plenty of darts at this race and he's finally won it so I'm pleased for him, he's was always eventually going to win it and it's happened today.

"Obviously we'd have liked to win, but that's racing. We've been here four times, won twice and been second twice, that's some record."

Cloudy Dream was third for Ruth Jefferson, who said: "I hoped he'd finish a little bit closer, but on that ground he just doesn't pick up as much.

"The winner had flown and Un De Sceaux was a bit like us, going up the hill in slow motion.

"He's run his race again and I can't complain."

Trainer Colin Tizzard stressed he would not be making any quick decision on what the future holds for Cue Card.

He said of his 12-year-old: "He has been a very brave horse for a long time. Paddy Brennan said that he never travelled on the deep, sticky ground and when they went by him he couldn't handle it.

"You can all see walking round here he is bright as a button. Paddy had to make a split decision. We are not going to make any rash statements on it. We will take him home and see how he is. We won't mention that word (retirement), but it is getting closer all the time.

"We will get him home before we make any decisions."

- PA

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