Willie Mullins' quest to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup will go on for at least another year after Sir Des Champs just missed out.
Willie Mullins' quest to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup will go on for another year after Sir Des Champs missed out.
Last Updated: 15/03/13 6:43pm
The Irish champion trainer has enjoyed another superb week at Prestbury Park, with Hurricane Fly's resurgence in the Champion Hurdle and Quevega's history-making victory in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle featuring among an excellent tally of five winners.
Mullins' incredibly powerful empire continues to break all records in his homeland and he also has a Grand National victory in the bag, but the most prestigious prize in the sport continues to elude him.
Having gone close in the Gold Cup before with the likes of Florida Pearl and his National hero Hedgehunter, Sir Des Champs did appear the Closutton maestro's best chance yet of claiming the holy grail.
Already a dual Festival winner and towards the head of the Gold Cup betting ever since landing last year's Jewson Novices' Chase, the seven-year-old has been carefully prepared for his Festival return, running well in defeat in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase and the Lexus before claiming the Irish Hennessy at Leopardstown.
In a dramatic twist, an injury to regular rider Davy Russell 24 hours earlier led to Mullins and owners Gigginstown House Stud searching for a replacement jockey.
After much talk and speculation, the withdrawal of Sunnyhillboy on Friday morning due to a bad scope freed up perennial champion jockey Tony McCoy and he was duly confirmed for the plum ride.
As the tapes went up, it was soon evident McCoy was keen not to allow former Gold Cup hero Long Run too much rope and he placed the 4/1 shot a clear second for much of the three-and-a-quarter-mile journey.
The two of them served it up to the rest of their rivals heading down the back straight and appeared to have it between them coming down the hill, but Long Run's stablemate and favourite Bobs Worth came from further back in the straight to take the glory.
Sir Des Champs was beaten seven lengths in the end and Mullins hopes he will be back for more in 12 months' time.
"It was a hell of a run," said the trainer. "He didn't appear to travel as well as he normally does and Tony was all the time niggling him.
"I thought we had Long Run's measure, but I didn't look behind - maybe I should have done. He got outstayed in the end."