The outfit’s first and only previous victory in the title race came in 2010, which was the one year out of the last 17 that JP McManus did not win. Led by Ryanair supremo Michael O’Leary, Gigginstown has enjoyed another fine campaign on home soil, with the undoubted star of the team the Willie Mullins-trained Sir Des Champs. The seven-year-old gave Gigginstown a major triumph in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February, while he was also placed in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase, was fourth in the Lexus and filled the runner-up spot in the Cheltenham Gold Cup behind Bobs Worth. And he arguably saved the best until last with a thrilling success from Long Run in the Bet Online With TheTote.com Punchestown Gold Cup. In what was a slightly frustrating week at Cheltenham, Gigginstown failed to hit the bullseye, but Sir Des Champs was one of the four horses to finish second – the others being First Lieutenant, Rule The World and Tofino Bay. First Lieutenant did go on to strike Grade One gold at Aintree’s Grand National meeting, however. It was the runners domestically that sealed the title, with Gordon Elliott’s Roi Du Mee doing more than his fair share in winning six races, picking up over 100,000 euros in prize-money, and Sir Des Champs in the Punchestown feature adding a further 90,000 euros. Tofino Bay, Bog Warrior and Un Atout were among the others to do well. Eddie O’Leary, Michael’s brother and Gigginstown’s racing manager, said: “It’s an honour to win it. JP is a very hard man to beat and it’s been a very good competition. “We’ve had a great season. Sir Des Champs winning the two Grade Ones, the novice hurdlers were a good bunch and First Lieutenant has been a fantastic horse – he’s so honest and sound. There have been plenty of highlights. We didn’t have a winner at Cheltenham, but it was a good week, we just couldn’t break the crossbar. “At the start of the season out aim is to win Graded races, not handicaps. If that puts us in with a chance of being champion owners, then great, but our main aim is to win the big races.” Press Association Gigginstown House Stud claimed the champion owners’ prize in Ireland for only the second time following the conclusion of the Punchestown Festival.
Senior outside hitter Jack Wyett passes a serve-receive ball against Princeton Jan. 31 at Galen Center. (Tucker Judkins/Daily Trojan) After beating then-No. 3 UC Irvine at home last week, the USC Trojans fell in a five-set rematch with the No. 4 Anteaters Saturday night at the Bren Events Center.Senior opposite Karl Apfelbach led the Anteaters with 19 kills, 8 digs and two aces in their 25-20, 25-27, 19-25, 25-23, 15-10 victory over USC. Apfelbach, senior outside hitter Aaron Koubi and junior middle blocker Scott Stadick each put up season-highs in kills with 19, 14 and 11 kills, respectively.USC built a 12-9 lead early in the first set, but UCI plunged forward scoring 6 unanswered points to pull ahead with a 15-12 lead that the Trojans could not recover from.The roles reversed in the second set, with UCI starting out with the lead to set the score at 8-3. The Trojans tied the score up at 19-19, but the Anteaters pulled ahead once again for a 23-21 advantage. USC scored the final 3 points of the set for a win for the Trojans, 27-25.USC quickly racked up an 11-6 lead in the third set, scoring 5 unanswered points. The Anteaters did close in on the Trojans 16-14, but USC never gave up its dominance, resulting in a 25-19 set.In the fourth set, UCI opened with a 5-3 lead, and widened the gap to 17-10, but USC turned it on and tied up the set at 22-22. But the Anteaters finished strong enough to win the set 25-23.The Anteaters came hot out the gate in the fifth set, scoring the first 5 points, but the Trojans weren’t able to catch up, ending the last set at 15-10.Senior outside hitters Ryan Moss, Jack Wyett and Gianluca Grasso led the Trojan offense with 18, 16 and 12 kills, respectively. Sophomore setter Chris Hall and senior libero Matt Douglas led the team on defense with 18 and 13 digs, respectively. Hall and redshirt junior middle blocker Tyler Resnick served three aces each.“Our defensive tenacity was good in comparison to other nights that we’ve had prior to this game,” Wyett said. “Our passing’s been … a staple for us this season and that kind of dictates our play. We came into the game a little bit hesitant, so that’s where we did a good job at bouncing back.”Preparing for the match, USC watched UCI players’ strategies on film. In practice, the Trojans mimicked the Anteaters’ style of play and shaped their defense around it.Wyett said that the Trojans’ blocking schemes and serving at crunch time broke down toward the end of the match. “I felt that we let them get on a couple rolls where we had to fight back a little bit, but we knew we were the better team,” Wyett said. “But sometimes … we would just kind of hang our heads a little bit and then we’d kick it into gear when we had to fight back, rather than just putting our foot on the gas from the get-go.”UCI played two matches in Arizona on Friday before flying home for its match against USC. “We knew they were going to be tired, but sometimes people kind of overlook the fact that once you get into the game, fatigue actually doesn’t play that much of a factor,” Wyett said. “And so, the mental preparation of knowing that we’re playing the No. 4 team in the nation was something that we really had to trust and knowing that our past win also wasn’t a fluke. We’re more talented than those guys.”The Trojans are back home this week to start Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference play, taking on Grand Canyon 7 p.m. Thursday at Galen Center.