An eventful Grade 1 Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup saw the Oliver McKiernan-trained Follow The Plan take the spoils after Roberto Goldback unseated his rider at the final fence when in the lead and Kauto Star, who was sent off 10/11 favourite, was pulled up.
The 20/1 winner was giving his locally-based handler and jockey Tom Doyle their biggest successes as the eight-year-old prevailed by 11 lengths.
“I’m delighted. We came here thinking that with a bit of luck we’d get place money. Then again, we thought that if Kauto Star didn’t run his race then we might have a better chance and it worked out better than that. We were still hopeful at the last as we know he finishes his races strongly.” said McKiernan. “But our’s was the freshest horse here and he never put a foot wrong. As a small trainer, this is my best day by a long way and this is my local track.”
Doyle added: “It was super. Riding big winners is what it’s all about. I’m delighted.
“I actually felt we were never going very quick. I travelled super and the further the race went, the better I travelled. Halfway down the back straight horses were dropping away and my horse was travelling super.
“I followed Robbie Power into the straight and obviously he fell at the last. I was a length behind him and I don’t know if I would have caught him – I certainly felt I still had every chance. I can’t say I definitely would or would not have won, but I think I probably would have won.”
Trainer Paul Nicholls will not rush into a decision whether the 11-year-old Kauto Star, one of the greatest chasers of recent times, might be retired.
“I said to (partner) Georgie (Browne) before the race that I didn’t care where he finished as long as he came back safe and sound and after he’d jumped three or four it was obvious where he would finish. He was not firing today,” said Nicholls.
“I’d done things a bit differently with him this year and had him fine-tuned for Cheltenham and then might have been a bit easy with him before this.
“But I’m not going to make any rash decisions based on one run. You could have a six-year-old that runs badly at this time of year and then comes back.
“It’s hard to judge on one run but if he came back in the autumn and ran once more like that then obviously we would retire him.”
Trainer Willie Mullins and son Patrick teamed up to take the Grade 1 Betchronicle.com Champion INH Flat Race with Lovethehigherlaw (8/1), who got up to score by a short-head in a photo-finish with Waaheb, who was sent off 15/8 favourite.
“It was a fantastic race with two fantastic horses. You would be proud to own either of them and it was only on the nod that we won,” said Willie Mullins. “This horse has showed me an awful lot all year. We decided not to take him to Cheltenham and it has paid off by coming here. I am delighted.
“Patrick got him settled well on the rails and the race worked out according to plan. I thought he was taking a little bit of a chance coming between them up the straight but it was obviously the right decision given the distance that he won by.
“He is going to be smart wherever he goes next year. He maybe won’t want real winter ground. We will see how he gets on – the races in the autumn and the spring could suit him, and hopefully the ground we usually get at Cheltenham should be what he will like.
“He has plenty of pace but could go over a longer trip. He wasn’t flinching there and could easily go over 2m 4f or 2m 6f but we will start him off over a shorter distance and see how he gets on. But we’ll let next season look after itself.”
The attendance at Punchestown today was 17,261, compared to 17,057 on the same day last year.