Having his first run since being pulled up on the track last February, Rick landed the Rock Of Cashel Hurdle in battling style from Aintree Grand National-bound Oscar Time and disappointing favourite Sivota.
In front before the third last, Rick was soon chased by the Martin Lynch-trained Paddy Power winner Oscar Time, carrying the colours of Robert Waley-Cohen for the first time and ridden by his son Sam, who will ride the gelding in the John Smiths Grand National net April.
Less than a length separated them rising at the final flight where Rick was fluent and low while Oscar Time jumped the obstacle like a chaser, spending too much time in the air. And, on the run-in, Paddy Flood’s mount stayed on to triumph by a length and a half.
“I’m delighted with that, because I thought he might need the run,” commented Hughes. “With a bit of luck, he could be very good. He’s a real stayer and the slow early pace wasn’t ideal. We’ll consider having a crack at the good three-miler at Leopardstown over Christmas now (the Grade 2 Christmas Hurdle).”
Hughes was even more delighted when Western Charmer, which burst a blood vessel in his previous start, at Naas back in February, opened his account over fences at the third attempt and on his seasonal debut, in the Irish Stallion Farms Beginners Chase.
Western Charmer, like Rick ridden by Paddy Flood, made all the running and, pressed by odds-on favourite Uncle Junior from the fourth last, always appeared to have the edge, getting home by a length and quarter, the pair stretching sixteen lengths clear of third-placed Fen Game.
The winning trainer commented: “That’s a relief, because this horse bled after a few fences when he ran last, back in February. We’re doing things differently with him now - he’s trained out of a field. And it seems to be helping him as his lungs seem to be clear.
“We thought he was going to be a very good horse in his bumper days and, hopefully, he’ll fulfil that potential over fences. He’ll probably run in the three-mile Grade 1 novice at Leopardstown at Christmas (the Fort Leney).”
Of the Hughes trio, Quiet Thought must be considered the only fortunate winner as she was under pressure and chasing leader Apalachicola, with a number of rivals closing in behind, when the race changed dramatically at the second last flight.
Apalachicola (Davy Condon) crashed at the flight, causing mayhem as she brought down Sanforized (travelling strongly), Fairly Definite and Phar From Trouble.
This left the Bryan Cooper-ridden Quiet Thought in front, tracked by Academy Rose, apparently travelling well before finding little when coming under pressure before the final flight, which the winner pinged before drawing away to score by five and a half lengths.
Mouse Morris won the opening Glen Chase with progressive novice Elysian Rock, strongly ridden by Martin Ferris.
Both the winner and market-drifter Catch Me tackled front running Apt Approach from the fourth last before the race developed into a tremendous duel between the Ferris-ridden winner and well-backed favourite Apt Approach (Paul Townend) from the penultimate fence.
And, after looking held by the market-leader, Elysian Rock’s stamina proved crucial on the run-in, getting home by a length, with Catch Me three lengths away third.
This was an excellent effort by Elysian Rock, a half-brother to stable-companion Venalmar, in only his third start over fences, against such seasoned campaigners. And a step into graded company is now on the cards, perhaps in the three-mile Fort Leney Novice Chase (Grade 1) at Leopardstown over Christmas.
A man feared by the bookies, Charles Byrnes, provided the layers with some relief when 22/1 shot Fists Of Fury swooped late to win the Holycross Maiden Hurdle at the expense of Better Times and Marlay Park.
Ridden by Davy Russell for the Gigginstown House Stud, the full-brother to Cooldine, having his second run under rules, survived a mistake at the last before getting up to triumph by a half length. The son of Beneficial looks every inch a staying chaser.
A dual-winner in the point-to-point sphere, Quarryvale made all to land the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Chase for Jimmy Mangan, slamming Congenial Gent by 12 lengths.