Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up went one better at Punchestown this afternoon when he confirmed places with Long Run to land the Bet Online With Punchestown Gold Cup.

Very likely to retain the championship when the season ends this weekend, winning rider Davy Russell was hospitalised with a punctured lung and had to watch Tony McCoy take his place at last month's Festival, where Willie Mullins' seven-year-old finished an honourable second to Bobs Worth.

Third that day was Long Run, and the pair were locked together over the final couple of fences with a mere three-quarters of a length between them at the line, while First Lieutenant snapped at their heels.

Sir Des Champs remains a horse with the potential to be a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner but he once again required mid-race attention from his jockey to keep pace before regaining momentum and Mullins made a cryptic suggestion about changes he could make in the future.

Russell could see Long Run a fair way ahead of him under another gallant ride from the front by Sam Waley-Cohen but began his charge for glory at the third-last obstacle and he looked set for an impressive victory.

Long Run, though, has a proved his appetite for racing and forced his way back in contention along the rail and emerged with great credit in a grandstand finish through gruelling conditions.

First Lieutenant, winner of the Betfred Bowl at Aintree, was also in with every chance and gave owner Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud the first and third.

As a result of the fall-out from Cheltenham, Russell had not been permitted to compete at Aintree, where he would have ridden First Lieutenant.

He said: "I've missed enough Grade One winners and that's important to Gigginstown and for myself.

You always want to ride in big races and I wasn't disappointed in him at Cheltenham, it was a great run until the last 100 yards and I was very impressed by the winner.

"I was impressed when I rode him in the week, he's tough physically but he's proved he's mentally tough."

Referring to the race, he said: "It was tough. I was tipping him along and I was worried that Cheltenham might have taken its toll. I was struggling to move him up on the back straight but he completely filled up again and I had loads left over the last two.

"He's only seven, and if he improves next season and the other fellow (Bobs Worth) stays the same, you never know."

Mullins said: "That was a great performance. I thought he looked big in the parade ring before the race and I thought we might have let him down too much after Cheltenham.

"I thought at the stone wall we were beat, but Davy got a breather into him and he was a different horse.

"We'll be back to Cheltenham I hope, and we might adjust a few little things next year. It was disappointing that the ground changed at Cheltenham but that's racing. He has won the Irish Hennessy and this, the two biggest races in Ireland, so it's fantastic."

On his recent problems, Russell, who was unhappy the British Horseracing Authority refused to grant him permission to ride at Aintree, said: "I am in the process of being booked in for an operation in a week or two in Dublin. I was speaking to the surgery this morning and they're trying to fit me into a slot to try and have a few blisters on my lungs stitched up.

"It happens to a number of people, just walking down the street, and it's just one of those things that happens to you - riding horses isn't going to make it happen."

Long Run's owner, Robert Waley-Cohen, felt it was worth the journey.

He said: "He was beaten by a better horse on the day and that's the second time he's beaten us, but I think that's the best race he's run for a long time.

"It might have been the change of scenery, but he showed a lot of determination.

"We'll prepare for the King George again and make a plan for the second half of the season. He won't run in France. He is certainly likely to get an entry in the Grand National."

Another British runner, Philip Hobbs' Captain Chris, took fourth.