Minella Indo proved he is no back number as he produced a superb front-running performance in the Irish Daily Star – Best For Racing Coverage Chase at Punchestown.
Winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2021 and runner-up to stablemate A Plus Tard 12 months later, Henry de Bromhead’s charge was pulled up on his most recent appearance in the blue riband back in March.
But despite the doubts, the 10-year-old was a well supported 15-8 favourite for his seasonal reappearance and the money proved right as he dominated from the front under Rachael Blackmore.
Minella Indo was soon bossing the proceedings, with last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup third Conflated and his five-time Grade One-winning stablemate Delta Work his nearest pursuers for much of the way.
Blackmore steadily upped the ante and on several occasions outjumped the chasing pair before pulling clear before the home turn.
In the end it was left to Gordon Elliott’s apparent third string Hurricane Georgie to chase down the leader, but while she got within a length and three-quarters, Minella Indo was well on top at the line.
Betfair make the winner a 50-1 shot to regain his Gold Cup crown at Prestbury Park in March.
De Bromhead said: “He’s given us so many great days and I’m delighted to see him start his season like that. His work was really good, but it was also good before the Gold Cup and it just didn’t happen for him there. It was a messy start and it just didn’t happen for him.
“He jumped from fence to fence today, his ears were pricked and Rachael said he really enjoyed it. I’m also delighted that Barry (Maloney, owner) is here as well.
“We entered him in the north (Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal) but that’s only a couple of weeks away, so we’ll see. We can enjoy today and decide in the next couple of weeks what we want to do.
“The Grand National is something we can discuss. Coming here after the Gold Cup, we couldn’t make any big plans but we’re really encouraged now for the rest of the season.”