Philip Fenton has done a wonderful job getting the injury-plagued former Champion Bumper hero back to the track, and the 11-year-old showed he retained plenty of ability when third on his comeback at Naas last month on what was his first run since the 2011 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
He had clearly come forward from that in this Grade Two assignment, moving powerfully towards the rear of the four-runner field through the early stages before taking closer order passing the stands.
Jumping the sixth from home in front, Brian O’Connell never really had an anxious moment from there, with 5-4 favourite Zaidpour being cajoled a long way out by Ruby Walsh.
The 11-4 chance jumped the last couple of hurdles well in charge and coasted home from Zaidpour, who consented to run on late.
Fenton said: “That was lovely, it was a grand performance. He’s not getting any younger, but he looked his old self. We were fairly confident we might be good enough.
“He was getting a little bit tired from the last, but we’d be hoping he’d improve from it.
“There’s a good chance he’ll go (to Cheltenham). We’ll see what the handicapper does, we could look at the County Hurdle or the Coral Cup, he got the trip (two-mile-five) well enough today.”
RaceBets make Dunguib a 16-1 chance for the Coral Cup.
Bright New Dawn claimed top honours in the Flyingbolt Novice Chase.
Irish Arkle faller Mallowney bowled along for most of the contest in the hands of Andrew McNamara, jumping well although being rather keen in the process.
In what effectively turned into a match, the two principals jumped two out more or less together, but Dessie Hughes’ charge got the better of the argument going to the last and asserted on the run-in to record a clear-cut triumph as the 5-4 favourite.
Hughes said: “I’m pleased with that, and he battled when he needed to.
“I don’t know about Cheltenham, he looks an ideal horse for the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse and maybe Punchestown after that.”
Foxrock continued his progression in the Ten Up Novice Chase.
A Grade Two winner at Naas last month, the Ted Walsh-trained six-year-old was striking again at that level with what was a reasonably last-gasp call over My Murphy, although he might have had a little more in hand than the official margin of half a length at the line.
For much of the three-mile journey the Barry Connell-owned market leader (4-6) had shared pole position with Clar Na Mionn and Civena, and they jumped nearly every fence in unison.
Foxrock made a slight mistake four out but was soon on an even keel and it was Civena who gave way first.
Clar Na Mionn looked like he might take over from the final fence and at one stage My Murphy appeared poised to swamp them both before Danny Mullins’ mount found a late burst to seal matters.
Walsh said: “He did what I thought he might do, he always seems to pull out a little bit.
“If he improves over the summer he will be a nice three-miler for next season, they are scarce on the ground.
“He stays, he jumps and he handles soft ground.”
Asked about running in the four-miler at Cheltenham, Walsh said: “We’ll see how he is in three weeks, that’s time enough to make our minds up. That’s where Barry would like to go with him.”
It was a double for Mullins in the Connell colours after his victory on the Denis Hogan-trained Inis Meain in the Dunsany Handicap Hurdle.
Boylesports cut the 2-1 winner to 16-1 from 25-1 for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham, although Hogan said the Coral Cup and Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle will also be in the equation.
Willie Mullins was on the mark with Daneking (4-5 favourite) in the Follow Navan On Facebook Maiden Hurdle, but suffered an odds-on reverse when Quevega’s full-brother Vivega could manage only third in the bumper won by Charlie Swan’s Ballagh (12-1).