Clan Des Obeaux brought the Willie Mullins Grade 1 dominance to an end at Punchestown yesterday when he landed the Gold Cup.
Al Boum Photo under Paul Townend could only manage second place after a few mistakes along the way.
Clan Des Obeaux rewarded the gumption of his owners, who include former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, and trainer Paul Nicholls to land the spoils in a thrilling Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup.
The dual King George VI Chase victor was supplemented for the race after posting a facile success in Aintree’s Betway Bowl and benefited from an enterprising ride by Sam Twiston-Davies to claim the €150,000 first prize.
Paul Townend looked to be travelling powerfully on Al Boum Photo when jumping into the long-time pacesetter’s slipstream but a couple of errors, particularly at the penultimate obstacle, left him playing catch-up at a crucial time.
He never looked like reeling in Clan Des Obeaux from that fence and the pair were separated by one and a half lengths, with Fakir D’oudairies 17 lengths back in third.
It was a first triumph at the Punchestown Festival for Nicholls since Master Minded landed the Champion Chase in 2009, and seventh in total.
The British champion trainer was not in attendance but would have been ecstatic about the ride given to his stable star by Twiston-Davies, who was also bridging a 12-year gap from his previous success at the Kildare extravaganza, as a 16-year-old on Baby Run in the Champion Hunter Chase.
Twiston-Davies, a former stable jockey at Ditcheat, was exultant afterwards but had thoughts for the man who succeeded him.
“It’s tough ‘cos Harry Cobden would normally be sat here and he is a good friend,” said Twiston-Davies of the rider who suffered fractures in his face after a fall in the Aintree Grand National.
“He got my job but still! It’s just very nice, even after everything, to have a relationship like this with Paul and all the team. It’s just very special and I can’t thank them all enough.
“To win a Punchestown Gold Cup, it is the stuff dreams are made of. To come over here and do it like that, be aggressive like that. And you’re always a little bit wary ‘cos I didn’t know the track that well. ‘Am I pressing a little bit hard?’ At home you know where you can get away with it.
“As we’re jumping four out, I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve been a little bit bold,’ but thank God he’s tough and the team had him in great nick.”