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China pure Gold at Punchestown

by Michelle Fortune , 28 April 2012

China Rock held on gamely to deny Follow The Plan in a thrilling renewal of Punchestown Gold Cup

Mouse Morris' nine-year-old had run in Tuesday's Champion Chase but despite his hard race connections allowed him to take his chance in the rescheduled Gold Cup and he proved once and for all that he is a stayer as he outlasted his rivals in the heavy ground.

Ruby Walsh settled Quel Esprit at the head of proceedings and he looked in good form as he galloped around Punchestown with Rubi Light in close order under Andrew Lynch.

They increased the tempo on the second circuit and it had the desired effect as one-by-one the field began to fade away. But China Rock and Follow The Plan refused to go away and all four looked capable of winning in what was a tremendous finish to the Grade One contest.

Rubi Light was the first to drop out of the reckoning and soon Quel Esprit was waving the white flag as Betfair Bowl winner Follow The Plan put it up to China Rock.

Morris' nine-year-old had looked like a stayer when travelling well in the Cheltenham Gold Cup before breaking down and he finally proved his stamina by getting the better of his nearest rival with Berry Geraghty pushing him out to the line for a well-deserved five-length success.

"We weren't going to win anything with him at home! He had a problem and we couldn't find it," he said.

"I thought he bled here the last day (Tuesday) and he didn't so I was trying to scope him with the onboard scope to see about his wind and I said I'd put a tongue strap on him.

"There was only seven or eight runners and there was great prize money down to sixth.

"He was travelling well in the Gold Cup and he fell into a hole, he was travelling reasonable enough the other day over two miles and he fell into a hole again, he just wasn't getting home so it was obviously a wind problem.

"We don't know what it is yet obviously but the wind was the problem. It's magic!"

Geraghty added: "He won on merit. He jumped and travelled away and just kept travelling.

"Honestly, as we turned away from the last ditch, I was letting the two lads off in front trying to fill up a little bit (give him a breather) and secure third really, but as we pressed on up to what was the second last, I was travelling better than the two in front.

"He has been competitive in very good races, he has been at this level before but he just hasn't been of late.

"Mouse put a tongue tie on him - Ruby rode him the last day and whether he prescribed that or not, I'm not sure but something worked anyway.

"He jumped and he travelled and he saw out the race where he hasn't been seeing out his races in the past, Mouse told me as it's been a while since I've ridden him."

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