Back over hurdles in the wake of crashing falls at both Cheltenham and Punchestown in the spring, the Bob Back gelding oozed class, cruising through to head Un Beau Matin at the final flight before forging clear to score emphatically by ten lengths.
Mullins explained: “I didn’t expect anything like that performance, because it’s been hard to get good work into him. But that was a nice performance. We might just stay hurdling with him for now, before he goes back over fences.
“His owners are keen to go for the World Hurdle, so we’ll have a good look at that route. And, if we’re going that route, he might go Cheltenham for the Cleeve Hurdle at the end of January.”
Boylesports reacted to Boston Bob’s victory by cutting him to 10/1 (from 14) for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
The formidable Mullins/Walsh combination struck again, with their final runner of 2013, when Adriana Des Mottes, a French-bred Network filly, making her debut for the champion trainer, made all and bolted-up in the Festival Hospitality On Sale 3-Y-0 Maiden Hurdle.
The 8/11 favourite stretched clear between the last two flights to slam Halling’s Treasure by 18 lengths, prompting Mullins to suggest: “Her experience, both in heavy ground and over hurdles, was a big help. She’s a raw-looking filly, but looks to be a natural hurdler. She should keep improving and we’ll have to step her up in grade to see what she can do.”
There was no joy for the Mullins-trained favourite Touch The Eden in the opening three-mile Buy Your Annual Membership as the 5/4 shot proved no match for the Davy Russell-ridden all-the-way winner Rogue Angel, which was wearing blinkers for the first time.
Mouse Morris, who trains Rogue Angel for Gigginstown House Stud, explained: “He jumps and loves that ground. And the blinkers were a big help. He looks like a horse for the four-miler (the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham) and might go to Naas first (for the Grade 2 Woodlands Park 100 Novice Chase on Saturday, January 18).”
Trainer Terence O’Brien, who saddled the final winner of the 2013 flat campaign when Ballyadam Brook triumphed at Dundalk before Christmas, won the final National Hunt event of the old year when Kilnockin Lady, enterprisingly ridden by Jane Mangan, made all to win the Goffs Punchestown Invitational Sale Mares Pro-Am Flat Race.
O’Brien explained: “She’s had plenty of problems with her off hind-leg and was not tracking properly. In fact, Jane said she’s still a bit hard to turn.
“She’s only coming right and could be very good. She has scope and size and jumps well, so she’ll go for a mares maiden hurdle next.”
The Denis Hogan-trained Luke’s Benefit won the Punchestown.com Handicap Chase for the third consecutive year when proving six and a half lengths too good for Kennoway in a race which saw favourite made a terrible mistake at the second. Ruby Walsh performed heroics to stay on board but soon pulled up his mount.
Luke’s Benefit was a 20th career winner for Brian Cawley, whose claim is now reduced to 5lb. And Hogan explained: “It’s hard to get one race, so to win this three years in-a-row is a real bonus. He has won eight now and is a remarkable horse — he likes to do things in his own time, otherwise, he gets swallowed up. He’s entered for Naas on Sunday — we went there last year and it didn’t work, so we’ll have to think about it.”
In the other handicap action, the JP McManus-owned Gilgamboa, trained by Enda Bolger, made a pleasing handicap debut when getting the better of Rightdownthemiddle by a half-length in the Buy Your Tickets On Line Handicap Hurdle.
Frank Berry, representing the winning owner, said: “He’s a nice big horse with the size and scope to make a chaser nest season. He jumps well and handles the ground well and got a good ride from Mark (Walsh). He might pick up another little handicap.”
Later, trainer Dermot McLoughlin admitted: “I don’t know much about him — I only have him about ten days,” after the Conor Walsh-ridden Westerners Son, formerly trained by Paul Nolan, stormed clear to slam Getoutwhenyoucan by eight and a half lengths in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.