Quel Esprit finally gets it together over fences

The hitherto frustrating Quel Esprit finally got his act together over fences with a power-packed front-running display to land the Grade 1 Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown yesterday.

In doing so he gave Willie Mullins his eighth success in the race and Ruby Walsh his second, to go with Neptune Collonges.

Quel Esprit was actually maintaining his unbeaten record over fences, when staying on his feet.

He has now run seven times, has won four and hit the deck in the other three. Significantly, those three all came in Grade 1 company.

But the grey set the record straight, taking no prisoners, after being allowed to bowl along merrily in front soon after the start.

China Rock tried his case at the second last, but was soon struggling and it was left to Roberto Goldback to chase home the winner at a distance of two lengths.

Predictably, the bookmakers wasted no time shortening Quel Esprit for the Gold Cup, but the connections of Long Run and Kauto Star are unlikely to have any sleepless nights.

In any case Paddy Power offered 16-1, from 25-1, with Boylesports it was 14-1, although Stan James and Grahams were more realistic at 20’s.

Said Mullins: “Ruby was very brave, he got him to jump from fence to fence and let the horse do the talking.

“He has had a little wind operation, that could have made the difference, or maybe, he is just maturing.

“I was hoping at the start of the season he might be good enough to go the whole way and we will have to take our crack at Cheltenham now. He is the only Grade 1 horse I have (over fences).

“This has been a very lucky race for us, we have had some very nice horses to run in it.’

Walsh said: “He jumped and travelled great. We went a real good gallop and never steadied it up. We always thought he was a great jumper, he was unlucky last season.”

Inevitably thoughts will now turn to who will ride Quel Esprit at Cheltenham, with Walsh committed to Kauto Star. Paul Townend, who has a good record on the horse, is the obvious choice.

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