Royal & SunAlliance Chase: Supreme rules staying division.
WILLIE Mullins has insisted all along that Rule Supreme is a horse with a "tremendous engine" and thought seriously about running him in the Gold Cup, but his jumping has tested even the very best riders in the business, writes Graham Dench.
Yesterday David Casey was back on board for the first time since the pair were successful at Punchestown in April and after negotiating an unorthodox route in an incident-packed race he drove him past Royal Emperor and hot favourite Our Vic for a dramatic victory.
In a race in which the cream of the current crop of novice chasers made the sort of mistakes usually associated with far inferior horses, Rule Supreme was by no means the worst offender, although he was always inclined to jump right, hence his position on
the wide outside most of the way.
Heading up the hill towards the fourth-last his prospects looked slim, for he was still at the back of the pack, where he had been throughout. But there was drama at that fence, where the grey Royal Emperor made the worst of his
numerous mistakes and Calling Brave lost his rider with his first significant error, and there was further drama two fences later, when Rule Supreme's front-running stablemate Mossy Green fell and brought down Pizarro.
Rule Supreme was still only third, several lengths behind Our Vic, who had not jumped well yet looked as if he still might justify short-priced favouritism, and Royal
Emperor, who was making a race of it, despite the catalogue of mistakes and his rider dropping his whip. However, the picture was about to change.
Just as Our Vic's suspect stamina was beginning to tell, Rule Supreme's deeper reserves were kicking in, and the "engine" went into overdrive.
The 25-1 chance was suddenly a contender not just for a place, but for the main prize itself, and, after challenging over the last he saw the finish out best, staying on to score by a length and a quarter and two lengths from Royal Emperor and a tired Our Vic.
When Mullins won the SunAlliance six years ago with Florida Pearl, the talk was all of the following year's Gold Cup, but this time it hardly seems to be under consideration. Indeed, Mullins' plans are most unorthodox.
He said: "He'll probably go to Punchestown and then possibly the French Champion Hurdle, then next year we might seriously consider the Stayers' Hurdle.
"The ability is there for a Gold Cup, but probably not the scope for it with his jumping. He's got a tremendous
engine, but is a scrappy jumper."
Royal & SunAlliance Chase
1 Rule Supreme 25-1
2 Royal Emperor 6-1
3 Our Vic 11-8f
Owner: John P Lynch
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockey: David Casey
Groom: David Condon
Breeder: Ms Mary A & Mrs HT
Distances: 11/2l, 2l
What they said
Willie Mullins on Rule Supreme
"I thought this fellow was the better horse, but his jumping wasn't as good as Mossy Green's. Some horses can jump out of jail, but this fellow can't and I don't think you'd ever straighten out his jumping."
"Why the French Champion Hurdle? It's worth 80,000 sterling! There are a lot of jumps, but they have soft ground and I think he'll cope with those kinds of fences."
Sue Smith on Royal Emperor, who also went agonisingly close in last year's Pertemps Final
"We could have done with a bit more cut in the ground emphasising stamina more than speed, as he was flat to the boards the whole way. But he's a very good horse and he has run his heart out here twice. I'm delighted, and he'll be back next year."
Martin Pipe on Our Vic
"He's run a good race. Favourites don't always win."