The Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old, meeting the odds-on favourite 31lb ‘wrong’, dictated the pace, jumping well, and had Barry Geraghty’s mount in trouble when that rival made a mistake at the third last.
The favourite threatened to mount a challenge briefly before the second last. But Roi Du Mee galloped on relentlessly to triumph by 16 lengths.
Davy Russell, who was completing a double for Gigginstown House Stud on Roi Du Mee, commented: “I rode him the other morning and felt that he had improved since last season. The race was very straight-forward. I was happy enough all the way. He was just lobbing away, jumped well and won well..”
Ian Amond, representing trainer Gordon Elliott, who was en route to Cheltenham, confirmed that the JNwine Champion Chase at Down Royal next month is the next likely target for the winner.
Barry Geraghty, rider of Forpadydeplasterer (later found to be “clinically abnormal” on veterinary examination), admitted: “He was struggling when he missed the third last. He felt fit enough but just lacked match-practice - after all, it’s almost a year since his last competitive run. And the ground wasn't ideal.”
And the favourite’s trainer, Tommy Cooper, trying hard to hide his disappointment, commented: “He was rusty and guessed at a few fence, when he was long. I don’t think the trip was an issue an neither does Barry. I have no idea where he’ll run next, although he’s in the Nicholson in the north. But my gut feeling is to bring him back in trip, on better ground.”
Earlier, Cooper stated: “He’s a better horse, both physically and mentally, this year,” after Lucky William, ridden by his son Bryan, had won the Grade 3 Buck House Novice Chase, beating Whodoyouthink by a length and a quarter, having travelled and jumped well throughout. He’ll probably have another crack at the Drinmore at Fairyhouse.”
The Jessica Harrington-trained Steps To Freedom followed-up his recent maiden win in Fairyhouse when justifying 11/8 favouritism in the Grade 3 Ryans Cleaning Events Specialists Hurdle.
Held up at the back of the five-runner field by Robert Power, the classy five-year-old survived a blunder at the second last flight before challenging on the approach to the final obstacle. And he produced enough to beat the more experienced Sailors Warn by a length and a quarter before, predictably, surviving a Stewards Enquiry.
Harrington commented: “I’m thrilled. He did it well. And Robert said he went on that softer ground no problem. He’s some jumper. And I liked the way he popped the first four and then gained lengths down the back as the tempo increased. And I’ll excuse him the fumble at the second last. The Royal Bond at Fairyhouse in early December is the plan for him. But he could got to Down Royal for a second-season novice race, if the ground is too good for Oscars Well.”
Harrington ruled out a trip to England for Steps To Freedom before the Cheltenham Festival. And he remains at 14/1 with Paddy Power, for the Supreme Novices.
Earlier, Italian-bred Il Fenomeno continued Noel Meade’s purple patch when getting the better of Run With The Wind in the opening Buy Your 2010 Annual Badge Maiden Hurdle, initiating a double for Roi Du Mee's rider Davy Russell.
Ruby Walsh made it two wins from three rides for trainer Paul Magnier when Carutomark landed the Paul Carberry Autobiography Best Seller Handicap Hurdle at the expense of the flattering Clarkey.
Nina Carberry, successful on the Aidan Howard-trained Don’t Tell De Purty in the Ingoldsby Amateur Handicap Chase, was expected to complete a double on Noel Meade’s Formidableopponent, backed into 4/7 favouritism, in the bumper.
But the JP McManus-owned hot-pot flopped, finishing a well-beaten sixth behind the Bill Harney-trained newcomer Joxer.