Carlingford Lough has capitalised on the dramatic final-fence exit of Valseur Lido to defend his Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
After giving the now-retired Sir Anthony McCoy his only success in the race 12 months ago, the John Kiely-trained 10-year-old was unfancied at 20-1 this time round in the hands of Mark Walsh.
Carlingford Lough was at the rear for most of the Grade One over three miles (4800m) but was coming into contention approaching the final fence which the Willie Mullins-trained Valseur Lido hit hard.
He was on his nose and gave Ruby Walsh no chance of staying in the saddle.
Road To Riches (5-4 fav) was left briefly in front, but he had no answer to Carlingford Lough, who went on to score by 12 lengths.
The winner is now as short as 16-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
“I just kept tipping away and once I jumped the second-last the others stopped in front of me and he kept galloping,” Walsh said.
“He stuck his head down and sprinted, winged the last and just galloped home to the line.
“I was the one that was quickening when Ruby hadn’t gone for Valseur Lido, but I’m pretty confident I would have won anyway.
Kiely admitted being surprised at the outcome.
“I didn’t think he could win two Irish Gold Cups,” he said.
“He was in good form, but I was just hoping to be in the first four.
Mullins, meanwhile, felt Valseur Lido ran a fine trial for Cheltenham, despite his blip.
“He didn’t look like he was stopping, so he’s booked his ticket for the Gold Cup,” he said.