Sizing Europe set a scorching pace, but, sadly, the rising 12-year-old is now but a light of other days.
He was beaten early in the straight, as Benefficient, Hidden Cyclone and a smooth travelling Arvika Ligeonniere emerged as the principals.
Benefficient landed in front over the last and never flinched on the run- in for Bryan Cooper to beat Hidden Cyclone by three parts of a length, with Arvika Ligeonniere a further half a length away in third.
The winner did edge to his left on the run in, but the stewards saw no reason, quite rightly, to change the placings.
Commented Martin: “That was great from Bryan, he suits the horse so well. He should never have run at Wetherby, that was a cock-up on my part.
“Twelve days before Wetherby, Benefficient was annihilated by Flemenstar in a gallop at Tipperary. He did far too much that day and should never have gone there.
“We will definitely have to consider the Ryanair (Cheltenham), I will chat to the lads (owners). If the ground came up soft we might look at the Queen Mother. He will probably have one more run before Cheltenham.”
Philip Fenton’s The Tullow Tank becomes more impressive by the day and was again particularly exciting in taking the Grade 1 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle. He was completing a four-timer and is improving at a rate of knots.
The Tullow Tank’s greatest asset is the ability to find plenty off the bridle and that was badly needed here, as he appeared to be struggling approaching the home turn.
But once Danny Mullins got stuck into him the issue was never in doubt, as he forged to the front going to the last to score going away by eight lengths.
Said Fenton: “I have to say that was very satisfactory. Three out and two out he didn’t seem to be running that smoothly, but the picture changed half way up the straight and he put it to bed like a good horse.”
Fenton indicated that The Tullow Tank will be entered in both the Supreme and Neptune novice hurdles at Cheltenham.
The likelihood is that the two-mile Supreme would be favoured, on soft ground, while it would be the two miles and five Neptune, on a faster surface.
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh were having a bad week, by their standards, but it came right when Rockyaboya took the €100,000 plus to the winner Paddy Power Chase.
Given the full Walsh treatment, the nine-year-old held on for dear life close home as Cause Of Causes and Tony McCoy closed with every stride, the verdict a short head.
It was a first success in the race for both trainer and jockey, while Rockyaboya is owned by Mullins’ son, Patrick.
“That was very different, I was a lot more nervous, but cleaner,” said Patrick. “This is one of the few things to go right this week, it was great to see Ruby doing 10-13, how often does he do that,” said Mullins senior.
“It’s lovely to have a winner back here,” said Aidan O’Brien, after his Plinth had beaten Mullins’ hot pot, Ivan Grozny, in the Paddy Power three-year-old Maiden Hurdle.
Ridden by Tony McCoy, Plinth came from off the pace and would have scored snugly, but for blundering badly at the final flight.
He must have lost all of three lengths and it was to the horse’s credit that he was able to fight back and grab Ivan Grozny near the line.
Said O’Brien: “I’m delighted, he was a horse JP (McManus, owner) always liked on the flat. That was a lovely first run (over jumps) for him.”
Bookmakers got a decent result when Gordon Elliott’s 16-1 shot Double Irish was far too good for the favourite, Champagne James, in the Paddy Power Maiden Hurdle.
Davy Russell eased the winner to the front over the second last and the King’s Theatre gelding hardly broke sweat to score by 13 lengths.
Said Elliott: “He’s a nice horse and improved from his last couple of runs. I don’t know what will be next.”
Elliott was on the mark again when the enigmatic Rocky Wednesday came from last to first to win the Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle.
Produced with impeccable timing by Robbie Colgan, the winner powered past the front-running Lastoftheleaders heading to the final flight.
Said Elliott: “He is a bit of a monkey, Robbie gave him a great ride. When the horse is good he’s good and when he’s bad he’s bad!”
Elliott then completed a treble when No More Heroes justified favouritism in the bumper, scoring by 39 lengths.
Partnered by Stephen Clements, he cruised ahead early in the straight, shaping like a thorough stayer in the making.
“He’s a nice horse and a three-mile chaser down the road,” said Elliott. “He might run in a winners’ bumper later in the season.”
* The attendance was 13,031, down from 15,130 last year.