Ryanair: Un De Sceaux special for Walsh and Mullins
Ruby Walsh is all smiles after Un De Sceaux's stylish victory
PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos) Un De Sceaux delivers for Walsh and Mullins By Keith Melrose 2:58PM 16 MAR 2017
Report: Cheltenham, Thursday
Ryanair Chase (Grade 1), 2m4f 166yds, 5yo+
UN DE SCEAUX avenged his defeat in last year's Champion Chase by winning the Ryanair Chase in spectacular fashion under Ruby Walsh.
After initially restraining his mount, Walsh gave up the struggle after five fences and allowed the 7-4 favourite to take the lead, which he never looked like relinquishing.
An extravagant round of jumping, punctuated by the odd over-bold moment, meant that the pair started down the hill around five lengths clear of the field.
The chasing pack were poised to strike, but by the time the leader cleared the last with one of his most precise and emphatic jumps only Sub Lieutenant was left giving meaningful chase.
Un De Sceaux tired slightly up the hill, but his lead was never less than the length and a half advantage he held at the line.
Outsider Aso finished third, with second-favourite Empire Of Dirt, who in contrast to the winner scarcely met a fence right all the way round, was fourth.
The win was a second on the day and the week for Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins, following the success of Yorkhill in the opening JLT.
Walsh said: "This horse is so honest and consistent, he's a little tiger."
Though he had won over 2m5f in France, Un De Sceaux had never run over further than 2m2f in Britain or Ireland and Walsh said: "I wasn't worried about him staying or the ground. He maybe needs soft ground over 2m, but over further he wants better ground."
The win was also a 50th at the festival for trainer Mullins and his longtime stable jockey paid tribute: "He's a brilliant man. He's had a tough year, but he's taken it well and he's brought his horses here in great form.
"I've been riding for him since I was 17 so I could stand here all day and tell you how much of a brilliant man I think he is and how much bearing he's had on my life."
Mullins confessed that he had not been aware of the milestone, but said of Un De Sceaux: "Plan A had been to settle him in third or fourth, but he soard the four fences in the straight and then Ruby settled him in front.
"That's him settled, when he's doing that, because he never really drops the bridle."