CHELTENHAM: Brian bounds to Bumper glory

Willie Mullins’ Briar Hill, in the hands of Ruby Walsh, sprang a 25-1 shock in the Weatherbys’ Champion Bumper.

The outsider of Mullins’ three runners in the race, he exploded clear up the straight to win going away by seven lengths.

It was a fifth of the week for the Carlow trainer, he also won the opening four-mile National Hunt Chase with Back In Focus, and a fourth for Walsh and took Walsh’s total of winners to 38 and he is easily the leading rider in the history of the festival.

Runner-up Regal Encore (7-1 joint-favourite) fleetingly looked the biggest danger along the straight, but the Graham Wylie-owned Briar Hill bounded up the hill to score by seven lengths.

Golantilla finished third for the Tony Martin team.

Mullins said: “We did know he had a little bit of ability.

“We were only here to see how good he was, so it was a huge surprise to see how well he did it.

“I think the hill, and probably the better ground, did it for him. I wasn’t particularly pushed about bringing him, but we did know he had a bit of ability after his debut [won at Thurles], despite showing nothing at home.”

Ruby added: “I got a bad break and got knocked down, but it worked out.

“When I gave him a smack he took off – he was very impressive.

“He’s no ’flash harry’ at home but you don’t mind when they do it on a racecourse.

“It was a bit of a surprise but a nice surprise. It looked a strong enough race on paper, and he’s somewhere related to Boston Bob and we have always classed him as a chaser down the line rather than a bumper horse.

“I think all the championship races here are won by good horses.”

Briar Hill is next season likely to be campaign as a staying hurdler.

Mullins, who had three runners in the race, added: “I thought I had a chance, but I didn’t think it would be with this one.

“If you rated the three horses, he would probably have been bottom of them all, so it’s a nice surprise.

“We’ll think about Punchestown. He’ll go down the novice hurdling route and I see him being an Albert Bartlett horse.”

Regal Encore’s trainer Anthony Honeyball said with a smile: “I’m pleased for Ruby and Willie – they really needed it.

“I’m delighted with the run but he’s still a bit keen and needs to be held up.

“Hopefully in time we’ll be able to ride him a bit further up with the pace.”


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