Un de Sceaux defends Champion Chase crown with sparkling Punchestown run

Un de Sceaux defends Champion Chase crown with sparkling Punchestown run
Jockey Paul Townend celebrates winning the BoyleSports Champion Steeplechase on Un De Sceaux at Punchestown. Pic: Sportsfile

Un de Sceaux has upset the odds to claim the feature race on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival - the BoyleSports Champion Chase.

The win was the 10th Grade One of the 11-year-old's career.

The popular veteran was a brilliant winner of the two-mile contest last season and had run just twice since - giving Altior a real race in the Tingle Creek at Sandown before finishing fifth in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.

It was a one-two for trainer Willie Mullins, with odds-on favourite Min four lengths back under Ruby Walsh.

The 8-13 favourite couldn't match Un de Sceaux's intensity from the front and the now 23-time winner made it back-to-back wins in the Punchestown Grade 1 prize.

Un De Sceaux was soon bowling along at the head of affairs under Paul Townend, with Min always his closest pursuer in the hands of Ruby Walsh.

Min attempted to close the gap leaving the back straight, but was untidy at the fence before the home turn and it was soon obvious he would struggle to get on terms - with Un De Sceaux showing no signs of stopping.

The 11-year-old safely negotiated the final two fences and was ultimately well on top as he passed the post four lengths to the good.

The sky blue and orange scarves of the O'Connell family were to the fore in the celebrations, with the 11-4 shot running out a clear-cut four-length winner.

Un De Sceaux was recording his 23rd career victory and his 10th at Grade One level.

Mullins said: "It was an incredible performance for an 11-year-old in a race like that - I think he's probably older than the two hunt horses that led him in!

"It's unbelievable the energy he has and he comes out with that every morning. I've never had a horse with his enthusiasm - he just loves it.

"Paul thought he was dead underneath him at the start, but the minute he faced him for the tape, he came alive. He said he was a passenger for three-quarters of the way, but that's a great feeling for a jockey - being on a machine like that and jumping so well.

"Un De Sceaux has come here a fresh horse compared to Min. Min had a very hard race in Aintree and maybe he needs an extra half-mile at this stage of his career."

Earlier, Mullins and Walsh combined for victory in the opening Grade One, with Klassical Dream winning the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at a price of 11-2.

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