Paul Nicholls has set his sights on the Gold Cup following Tidal Bay's Lexus Chase win
Last Updated: 28/12/12 4:14pm
Paul Nicholls: Dreaming of Gold
Paul Nicholls has set his sights on the Cheltenham Gold Cup after Tidal Bay got up in the final strides to land the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.
Ruby Walsh got an amazing run out of the veteran to pass several rivals on the run-in but Nicholls is already thinking about the future: "The extra two furlongs at Cheltenham will suit him well. He's in the form of his life for an 11-year-old. Roll on Cheltenham."
It was a second Grade Grade One on the card for owner Graham Wylie after Back In Focus took the Topaz Chase.
Wylie said: "This is up there with Inglis Drever. Back In Focus and now Tidal Bay. Both looked like they were beat over the last and both came with a great run in the end and just nicked it.
"I thought our fella was cooked four out, but then he started to come again. He's just got guts that horse.
"Paul has done an amazing job with him and Ruby as well. He gave him a great ride because you have to be patient. He's an odd, quirky character even at home but it was a great training performance and a great ride."
Walsh added: "He jumped the second-last well and I got through the gap going to the last. He was really finishing and I thought I had a chance of getting to them.
"He was a bit flat-footed at the last and he took time to pick up, but when he did he started to fly and I guess 100 yards down I was thinking I was going to get there.
"Everyone was in the same boat. We all knew Flemenstar's stamina had to be tested and Midnight Chase went a good honest gallop and the tempo was upped all the way. It was a real true-run contest.
"He's a different horse this year. He won at Wetherby, was second in the Hennessy at Newbury and has come and won today. It's brilliant."
Peter Casey said of his beaten favourite Flemenstar: "Andrew (Lynch) said he pulled too hard. Maybe it would have been better if he had gone off in front.
"I don't think it was too far for him today. He boiled over a little bit. We had a job putting a saddle on him. He wasn't settled. Andrew said we'll have to go for the Hennessy and you have to do what the jockey says."The Neil Mulholland-trained Midnight Chase made the running with Hidden Cyclone and Quito De La Roque on his heels and Tidal Bay held up in the rear.
Hidden Cyclone went on during the final circuit while Flemenstar appeared to be going ominously well as Peter Casey's stable star tried to take his winning sequence to eight, on his first try at three miles.
China Rock led two out, but Flemenstar was still going best and landed over the last with the race to win.
However, his stamina appeared to give out on the soft ground on the run to the line.
Tidal Bay still had a few lengths to find but he found what was necessary as Walsh produced him between horses, getting up to score by a head from First Lieutenant with Flemenstar third.
Sir Des Champs was just behind but his chances of success were not helped by his jumping.
Reacting to the result, Joseph Burke for Stan James in Ireland, said: "It was billed as Flemenstar versus Sir Des Champs, round two, but Tidal Bay stole the show under a terrific Ruby Walsh ride. We have slashed Tidal Bay's odds for the Cheltenham Gold Cup from 20-1 into 10-1 while Bobs Worth has shortened to 11-4 favourite (from 4-1).
"Tidal Bay had previously run a brilliant race in the Hennessy Gold Cup, when he was second, less than three and a half lengths away from Bobs Worth, and he was giving him 6lb that day, so that was some performance in retrospect.
"Last year, the Lexus proved to be the best trial for the Gold Cup with the hitherto unheralded Synchronised progressing to win at Cheltenham on his very next start so nobody should underestimate this result.
"Of last year's novices, Sir Des Champs probably emerged with the most credit and connections can be happy with him, given his season presumably revolves around the Gold Cup, for which he can now be backed at 8-1 (from 6-1)."