All eyes were on last year’s winner Cue Card, whose win in the Charlie Hall Chase was followed by three Grade 1 wins over three miles. This was intersected by an unlucky fall at the third last when going well in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
In what was somewhat of a surprise, the Rebecca Curtis-trained Irish Cavalier stepped up to land the spoils in this year’s renewal of the Grade 2 contest.
The early running was taken up by David Pipe’s grey Dynaste, with Virak and Wakanda in close proximity. Warm favourite Cue Card settled into fourth with Irish Cavalier in the hands of Jonathan Moore to his outside.
Paddy Brennan made a move aboard Cue Card with a circuit to travel, taking up the lead seven fences from home. The duo led their rivals up the home straight hotly pursued by Blacklion, Irish Cavalier and Menorah who was one of the first under pressure.
With Irish Cavalier and Cue Card level coming to the last, the former got the better leap and stayed on dourly up to the post, holding off runner-up Menorah by three-quarters-of-a-length with Cue Card back in third.
For Moore – who made the move from Ireland to Fforest Farm this season – this win is his first triumph at Graded level.
His good association with the seven-year-old grey goes on, as he steered him to victory in a valuable handicap chase at the Puchestown Festival in the spring.
“I didn’t want to go there too soon and use him up,” reflected Moore. “So I tried to keep him on Cue Card’s heels and he just took me there. Four out, three out, he was absolutely awesome.”
A first win in the race as a trainer, this will no doubt rank among Curtis’ career highlights. No doubt it will rank highly alongside her Cheltenham Festival wins with At Fishers Cross and O’Faolains Boy.
Curtis said: “I thought he’d run well, but I didn’t think he’d win. He’s still only seven and he obviously gets three miles. He’s improving every season.
Four out, three out, he was absolutely awesome
“He thrives on his racing, the season before he ran twice at the Punchestown Festival.”
Earlier in the afternoon, the Paul Nicholls-trained Silsol delivered in spades to land the Grade 2 West Yorkshire Hurdle over three miles.
A third victory in the race for the champion trainer, the son of Soldier Hollow was never too far off the leaders under Jack Sherwood. Having taken the lead approaching the last, he stayed on strongly to score by just under three lengths in the colours of the MacDonald’s.