The Henry de Bromhead-trained eleven-year-old, previously successful in 2013 and 2014, dictated the pace, jumping well, and was never seriously threatened as he kept going up the hill to beat Twinlight by seven and a half lengths with uneasy 11/10 favourite Simply Ned, a rare British challenger at Naas, a tired third.
“It’s great to have him back as he had a problem last year,” stated de Bromhead. “He got a super ride from Andrew and conditions were ideal – the bare two miles in that heavy ground. He seems to struggle over the extra furlong in some of his races, when you can’t really ride him flat-out.
“He’s a very good horse on his day, when conditions are right. We’ll probably look at the ‘Normans Grove’ (at Fairyhouse over Easter) for him. I had been looking at the two-mile handicap in Aintree, off 146. But the ground would probably be a bit quick and he’ll go up for this.”
The other Grade 2 event on the card, the Paddy Power Shops Better Value Novice Hurdle went to Gordon Elliott’s progressive five-year-old Ball D’Arc, ridden for Gigginstown House Stud by Bryan Cooper.
Ball D’Arc, successful at listed level in Punchestown last time, got the better of Moon Over Germany and favourite Don’t Touch It (faded badly on the run-in), scoring by two lengths.
Elliott said: “It was a god performance. He did it nicely, although Bryan said he was struggling all the way in the ground. He’ll be a nicer horse on better ground.”
Elliott will discuss plans with Michael and Eddie O’Leary, although Boylesports cut Ball D’Arc to 25/1 (from 50) for the Supreme Novices at Cheltenham, the stated target of the winner’s stable-companion Tombstone.
The Gigginstown colours were back in the winner’s enclosure after Avenie D’Une Vie, beaten by Bew Kid In Town at Gowran last time, bolted-up for Willie and Patrick Mullins in the bumper, the Paddy Power Clane Shop Pro-Am Flat Race.
Confidently handled, the six-year-old mastered front-running Virtual Insanity with less than two furlongs to race before stretching clear to slam market rival Tamlough Boy by fourteen lengths.
“That’s more like what we thought of him on his work at home,” declared Willie Mullins. “He’s a real good mover and is improving all the time. He’ll go for another bumper.”
The J P McManus-owned Marlbrook, ridden by Barry Geraghty, gave back-to-form Colm Murphy another significant success when making all in the Woodlands 100 Club Nas Na Riogh Novice Handicap Chase.
The 2/1 favourite jumped soundly and stayed on strongly to beat Vicangelome by six lengths, prompting Murphy to comment: “He seems to handle those conditions better than most. He was frustrating early on, but is getting the hang of things. He deserved to win a good one and this was a nice pot.”
Murphy, who won this race with Empire Of Dirt last year, added: “We’ll see what Noel (handicapper Noel O’Brien) does to him and then talk to Frank (Berry) before we make plans.”
The Dermot Weld-trained Vigil, having his second start over hurdles and sent off at 2/9, recorded a smooth success in the opening Paddy Power Acca Insurance Maiden Hurdle, coasting home under Davy Russell, a three and a quarter lengths winner from Coeur Joyeux.
He did what you’d expect him to do,” stated Weld.
“He jumped very well and will learn a lot from today. We’ll see how he comes out of the race before making plans.
"He’s a possible for Cheltenham, but also a possible for Fairyhouse or Punchestown. But we have no great plans for him. He handles soft or heavy ground, but will be effective on good ground too.”
Robbie Power followed-up Saturday’s double in Fairyhouse by guiding 16/1 shot Conright Boy, trained by Cathy O’Leary, to a convincing victory over Ice Cool in the Paddy Power Collect Your Bets In Any Shop Handicap Hurdle.
Jack Kennedy, who picked-up a three-day whip ban at Fairyhouse on Saturday, was on the mark when Fergiethelegend forged clear to land the Kildare Post Handicap Chase by seventeen lengths from Tooreen.