The imposing and rapidly improving five-year-old is trained by Sandra Hughes, daughter of the much-respected Dessie, who died relatively recently. This was a gutsy display by Lieutenant Colonel, who had to dig deep to get the better of the front-running Jetson.
Cooper had the leader in his sights throughout and then produced him with impeccable timing to master Jetson in a tough battle from the last.
Said Ms Hughes: “That was brilliant, he (Lieutenant Colonel) is very good. It was hard to watch.
“Bryan was fantastic, I don’t have to worry when he is riding. Christmas was very hard, as you can imagine, but this is what we work for every day. The World Hurdle at Cheltenham is his main aim this season.’’
Jetson lost nothing in defeat, while Noel Meade’s Monksland, returning from an absence of 730 days, ran a cracker to fill third spot.
Rebecca Curtis’ At Fishers Cross was most disappointing. His jumping was sloppy, and, at times, to the right and he had no more to offer in the straight.
The opening At The Races Maiden Hurdle saw Henry de Bromhead continue an excellent Christmas, with victory going to his highly promising Identity Thief, initiating a treble for Cooper.
Like Road To Riches and Lieutenant Colonel, he is owned by the Gigginstown House Stud and made his debut at Fairyhouse four weeks earlier and won a bumper at 25-1.
There were no fancy prices on offer this time round, however, although Noel Meade’s Snow Falcon was preferred to him in the market.
The pair had it between them in the closing stages and it was always going in favour of Identity Thief from the final flight. It was certainly a decent effort on the part of the son of Kayf Tara, considering he was less than foot perfect at the second last. Said Cooper: “He was keen, but has a bright future. I’d say the first two could be decent horses.’’
Commented de Bromhead: “He was impressive in his bumper and kept the dream alive today. He’s a really nice young horse to have.’’
Liz Doyle’s Le Vent D’antan was easily best for money in the Ballymaloe Original Country Relish Beginners Chase and toyed with his rivals, under a typically confident Davy Russell drive.
His jumping was quick and accurate and it always looked a matter of when Russell asked him to go and win his race. The last fence was omitted, due to a low sun, and, with that potential danger removed, the winner was able to stroll into the lead in the straight and score with his head in his chest.
Said Doyle: “That’s a relief. He made two very bad mistakes at Naas (second to Real Steel) and that surprised me. He was a lot fitter today.
“I have always hoped he would be a Grade 1 horse. I’m thrilled, he is a really nice horse.’’
Shark Hanlon, out of luck one more time with Hidden Cyclone on Saturday, had a modicum of compensation when Usuel Smurfer took the competitive three-mile Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.
Superbly handled by Adrian Heskin, a brilliant leap at the last sealed the deal for the winner, as he powered away from Off The Charts.
“That was lovely, coming here I was very much afraid of the ground’’, remarked a delighted Hanlon.
Ruby Walsh showed real patience to take the Irish Daily Star Christmas Novice Handicap Hurdle on Shemshal, another for in-form Tony Martin.
Mr Diablo burst for home heading to the last, but Walsh arrived from behind with an irresistible run and Shemshal did the rest.
Willie Mullins’ ex-winning point-to-pointer, Up For Review, made an impressive start on the racecourse when making all-of-the-running to easily land the Bumper.
* The attendance was 18,377, as against 17,123 last year.