Balnaslow, who ran so well at Cheltenham and Aintree, gained a well-deserved big pay day as he got the better of Mendip Express in a protracted home straight battle for the Star Best For Racing Coverage Champion Hunters Chase at Punchestown tonight.
Ten lined-up for this three-mile contest, with familiar names like Balnaslow, Sir Des Champs and that grand hunter chaser On The Fringe, a five-time winner of this race, all taking part.
On The Fringe landed first from Minella For Value and Mendip Express over the first fence, with Balnaslow also prominent.
Settling down, Mendip Express went on from Dimple and Minella For Value and then came Balnaslow as On The Fringe was dropped back, followed by Sir Des Champs.
The English challenger Mendip Express moved into a clear lead racing down the home straight but the grey Dimple came to join him at the fence in front of the stands as the field raced away with a circuit to run.
Dimple took on the pacemaker duties heading out into the country with Mendip Express second and then Balnaslow.
The young grey, a prolific point to pointer, continued to take the field along from Mendip Express as they headed to the seventh last fence, landing a couple of lengths clear, but with the rest of the field all still in the hunt, with the exception of Sir Des Champs who had lost his rider.
Dimple raced to the fourth last still with the lead over Mendip Express and Balnaslow but the latter two took over and heading to the third last Balnaslow, racing wide, led from Mendip Express and Minella For Value to the inside.
Balnaslow turned for home in front of Mendip Express and this pair went right away in a superb duel.
At the last there was nothing between the pair and it came down to the flat, with neither horse buckling for effort. But just as Mendip Express rallied, Balnaslow found more to hold on under Derek O’Connor in a brilliant race.
A long way back Minella For Value stuck on for third, then came Home Farm in fourth and On The Fringe fifth.
The Graham McKeever trained Balnaslow, formerly trained by Gordon Elliott, had surely deserved a big prize after some terrific efforts in the big hunter chases this spring. The 10 year old was fifth at Cheltenham and ran a mighty race when second to Dineur over the Grand National fences three weeks ago.