The Pat Fahy-trained six-year-old was ridden prominently by Ruby Walsh, jumped fluently and, when pressed over the last two fences, found plenty to beat chief market rival Si C’Etait Vrai convincingly by three and three-quarter lengths, with Clonbanon Lad third.
Morning Assembly’s win delighted trainer Fahy, who admitted: “As far as I was concerned, there was no pressure beforehand. You get nowhere forcing young horses so early in the season. It’s a long time until next April.
“He has done very little serious work and should improve plenty from the run, but he’ll never let you down. Ruby was happy with him but told me to give the horses more experience before taking on the big-guns. This was only his sixth run on the track, so he’s still learning. One thing in his favour is that he has always been a natural jumper.”
Fahy will consult the gelding’s owners before finalising plans for Morning Assembly. But, anxious to keep his charge racing over an extended trip, a return to Punchestown for the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novice Chase on November 17 looks a likely target, with Leopardstown’s Grade 1 Fort Leney Novice Chase (at Christmas) his mid-season objective.
Both Paddy Power and Ladbrokes make Morning Assembly a 25/1 shot for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March.
No such lofty plans for Jim Will Fix It, winner of the earlier two-mile beginners chase, in which Carpet Elegance had taken a narrow lead when crashing at the third last fence and hampering odds-on favourite Too Scoops, which ultimately finished a well-beaten fourth.
Jim Will Fix, the mount of Paul Townend, held the late flourish of Way Up In The Air by a head, to the delight of his trainer Seamus Roche: “I was expecting him to run well and improve from the run, so winning is a bonus. He’s been wrong all along and it has taken time to get him right. A lot of credit goes to Kitty Shanahan who has done a great job sorting out his muscle problems. He’ll go for a winners of one and might go back to Navan, for a race he was second in two years ago.”
Odds-on punters endured a trying day as, in addition to Too Scoops, fingers were burned on both Lucky Bridle and Thunder And Roses in the opening maiden hurdles.
In an incident-filled opener, Lucky Bridle was beaten when flattening the final flight and finishing third behind the Colm Murphy-trained, all-the-way winner Empire Of Dirt, another winner for Gigginstown House Stud and champion-jockey Davy Russell.
Murphy said: “His pedigree suggests he wants three miles and fences, so it’s great win with him over two miles. He’s had a few minor issues and was plenty green in front. So I expect plenty of improvement from him. He’ll go for a winners’ race and he’ll probably stay hurdling this season.”
The maroon and white colours of Gigginstown were worn by 4/5 favourite Thunder And Roses in the €10 Admission To All Non Festival Meetings Maiden Hurdle but, having raced prominently, he had to settle for fourth spot behind Rightdownthemiddle, ridden by John Cullen.
The five-year-old Oscar gelding beat Chute Hall (whose rider Bryan Cooper lost his whip) by a head, with The Job Is Right a close third. His trainer Mick Mulvany explained: “He flattened the second last in Fairyhouse and King Shabra was flattered by the winning margin. We’ll see what the handicapper thinks of him now. He’s an out and out three mile horse and chasing will be his game.”