In one of the greatest finishes of the season, the admirable Tidal Bay (11g Flemensfirth-June’s Bride, by Le Moss) forged ahead of three top-class rivals to claim an unforgettable renewal of the G1 Lexus Chase.
Ruby Walsh waited patiently aboard the son of Flemensfirth, timing his challenge late to get up and defeat First Lieutenant and Flemenstar (7g Flemensfirth-Different Dee, by Beau Sher) in the closing strides of the three-mile contest, with Sir Des Champs inches further back in fourth.
It was a third G1 success and seventh graded victory for the durable and versatile John Dorgan-bred son of Flemensfirth, whose previous success had come over the smaller obstacles in the G2 West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby in November.
“I was cussing Ruby four out as I thought he had given him too much to do. 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,” trainer Paul Nicholls told irishracing.com
“He knows where the winning post is. He comes with a real rattle and had the right man riding him. You have to ride him like that. He wouldn’t want fast ground at Cheltenham, but we have two good options at Cheltenham in the G1 Gold Cup and G1 World Hurdle.”
Walsh added: “He jumped the second last well. I thought coming to the last I had a chance. He landed flat after the last, but then he flew. It’s a long run and a very stiff finish. It was a good gallop and a true run race and the best horse wins.
“It’s a true race. You have to stay. I’m glad it was a test as it suited me. A hundred yards down I thought I was getting there. I’d love to ride him in the World Hurdle with no Big Buck’s there.”
Flemensfirth had another impressive winner on the top-class Leopardstown card when the Charlie Swan-trained Tangled Web (4g Flemensfirth-Zafilly, by Zafonic) was partnered by Nina Carberry to win the concluding bumper.
“He’s a lovely horse. He probably won’t run in another bumper. He looks a chaser in the making. He’s very straightforward, has a bit of pace and stays well,” said Swan. “He seems to go on any ground. He’s a nice horse to look forward to. It’s nice to have a nice horse in the yard as well sell a lot of ours.”
Tangled Web was bred by David Kennedy and bought for 14,500 euros as a yearling at Fairyhouse by John O’Byrne.