Only four went to post and No More Heroes was sent off the 4-9 chase to extend his unblemished over fences but the opposition, though in short supply, included Irish Grand National runner-up Rule The World, and a three-time Grade 2 winning hurdler in the shape of Monksland.
Understandably, in very testing conditions, the early pace was modest and No More Heroes, whose jumping was exceptional in the Drinmore, was clean but unimpressive over the first few obstacles. However, as the race progressed and the tempo increased, his scope became blatantly obvious, and when he soared across the second-last he looked in in command. The experienced Rule The World went in chase but Bryan Cooper had matters in control aboard the favourite, and they galloped clear from the final fence.
“He’s a proper horse, and hopefully we’ll have plenty of good days with him,” said Elliott. “He’s a big old-fashioned chaser, and very laid back. He just eats and sleeps – a bit like myself.
“He was a bit sloppy over the first few fences but once the bit came back in his mouth he never missed a beat.”
Though reluctant to compare the winner to Don Cossack, Elliott conceded: “Don Cossack would have more speed, whereas No More Heroes is an out-and-out stayer. I wouldn’t mind going to the four-mile chase with him - it would suit him well, and I’m sure Jamie Codd wouldn’t mind riding him in that!”
The RSA is a more obvious target, and he’s unlikely to be seen before then, but Elliott is aware of the depth of talent amongst the owners’ staying novice chasers. “With the amount of horses Gigginstown have, they have to be split up, so he’ll get an entry in the JLT and the RSA - and the four-mile chase.”
Elliott later completed a double, when Squouateur pulled away late to take the novice handicap in the hands of Barry Geraghty, to give owner JP McManus a sixth winner at the meeting. “It has been a very good week, and you have to be happy with two Grade 1s, but it could easily have been four,” he added.
Val O’Brien has enjoyed a fine finish to 2015, and Clar Na Mionn gave the Athenry trainer his third winner in 10 days when taking the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Chase under Stephen Gray.
The 14-1 chance put in an assured round of jumping, which allowed him comfortably hold his position just behind the pace. Asked to quicken leaving the back, he led over the second-last, and his stamina shone through as he pulled clear up the straight to win comfortably.
“I was a little worried the trip might be a bit sharp for him today, but he did it well,” said O’Brien. “He got injured in the 2014 Irish Grand National, and that’s his first win since.
“If he were to get another couple of wins and creep up the weights, we’d certainly look at going back for that race.”
Acapella Bourgeois (6-1) wasn’t without his supporters when landing the Copper Face Jacks Maiden Hurdle for Sandra Hughes. In front for much of the trip, he conceded his advantage to Yes Sir Brian racing down the side of the course, but was back in front, travelling well, turning for home.
Favourite Space Cadet and Call It Magic momentarily threatened to mount a challenge, but Acapella Bourgeois found plenty to win well under Jonathan Burke.
“He has a big engine, but is a bit quirky, and can be quite hard on himself,” said Burke.
“He does it the hard way but I was delighted when Mark Enright came by me because I was able to get a breather.
“As soon as I turned for the second-last he took off again. Up that straight, in the ground and into that wind it’s tough work but, to be fair to him, he ground it out well.”
The winner looks a fine chasing prospect for connections, who had former Grade 1 winning chaser Schindlers Hunt.
Ttebbob and Woodland Opera may have failed to fire earlier in the week, but there was compensation for trainer Jessica Harrington when stable companions Keppols Queen and Rock On The Moor finished first and second respectively in the Grade 3 Willis EBF Mares’ Hurdle.
Morning Run, returning after a long absence, was sent off a short-priced favourite but was keen from the outset, and faded tamely from the home turn. Keppols Queen, despite being wrong at the weights with many of her rivals, led into the straight, and stayed on powerfully.
“She’s run in a couple of handicaps this season and she just hasn’t enjoyed it at all, but coming back to this suited,” said Harrington. “I thought on ratings she was way out of it, but she was race-fit, whereas Rock On The Moor just needed it, and ran brilliantly.”
* In wintry conditions, the attendance on day four dipped to 9,150, to give an aggregate of 54,891 (down from 58,485 in 2014) for the four days. Bookmaker turnover was a little over half a million euro, bringing a total of €3,291,232 (from €3,460,840 in 2014) for the week, while Tote turnover of €437,990 brought the final figure to €2,339,233 (up from €1,754,144).