Force Of Habit was the winner of the Meyrick.ie & ghotel.ie Novice Hurdle at Galway for the undisputed master of Ballybrit, Dermot Weld.
The Rosewell House trainer has an astonishing record at the mid-summer Irish Festival and got off the mark for 2010 at the first time of asking.
Sent off at 5-1 on the back of a win on the Flat at Fairyhouse, Force Of Habit travelled strongly under Paul Townend but looked like having to settle for minor honours when Hail Caesar struck on turning for home.
However, Townend was in determined mood and Force Of Habit gradually wore down his rival to score by three-quarters of a length.
Weld, in search of his 26th leading trainer award at the big meeting, said of the versatile four-year-old: "Force Of Habit is a tough horse, but I was a little concerned about there being too much of a give in the ground for him - the ground must not be too bad.
"Paul gave him a very good ride and the horse will run again later in the week, in either the mile-and-a-half handicap on Thursday or the two-mile handicap on Sunday."
Kalellshan was cut for the Galway Hurdle on Thursday after making all in the jurysinn.com Handicap Hurdle.
On his just his second ride back since returning from injury, Davy Russell was seen at his best on the Charles Byrnes-trained seven-year-old (8-1) as they held the determined challenge of Total Excitement from the last by a length and a half.
William Hill go 20-1 from 33s about the winner for the big event later in the week, while at the same time trimming the runner-up to the same price from 25s.
Byrnes said: "Kalellshan kept pulling out a little bit more when he needed to and the secret to him is to ride him from the front. He is in later in the week, but may not run as he may have too much weight."