Winner of the Ulster National in Downpatrick last time, the 13/8 favourite travelled strongly for Adrian Heskin throughout the race and saw off Incitatum by three and three-quarter lengths, without having a hard race.
Winning trainer Enda Bolger said: “That was a nice pipe-opener for the (CME Auctioneers) Cross-Country Chase on the Saturday of Punchestown – he was second to Josie’s Orders in the race last year – and he’ll be given an entry again.
“This was a good opportunity for him off his hurdle mark and it should leave him spot-on for the Punchestown race. He could go to Killarney next month too, for the Killarney National.”
In the colours he wore to Crabbie’s Grand National glory on Rule The World, David Mullins partnered 10/11 favourite Master Of Verse to a smooth success over front-running Troublesombrothers in the opening Support The Injured Jockeys Fund Maiden Hurdle.
The Milan gelding, trained for Gigginstown House Stud by Willie Mullins (who was in Perth), quickened into the lead between the last two flight and drew clear readily to triumph by eight and a half lengths, prompting the winning rider (who was deputising fore Bryan Cooper, also in Perth) to admit, “The hood helped him settle better and the good ground was a big help – he did it well.”
The talented but lightly-raced ten-year-old Young Finnegan, trained by Robert Tyner and ridden by Philip Enright, proved a facile winner of the Irish Stallion farms Beginners Chase, beating Vercingetorix more comfortably than the three and a half lengths winning margin might suggest.
Tyner enthused: “He looked a serious horse in his bumper and novice hurdling days. But’s he’s had a lot of problems and, quite honestly, he has only come right in the last five or six days. He looks great again. I’m delighted for his owners, who stuck with him.”
Andrew Lynch was on the mark when 7/2 favourite Tyrone Tiger, trained by Suzy Barkley, registered his first success since March 2013 by landing the Summer Evening Racing At Fairyhouse Handicap Hurdle, holding All About Alfie by a neck.
Barkley said: “I’m so proud of this wee horse – he’s been through so much. I was told he’d never walk sound again and had a number of operations on his legs. He was off for two years, but hasn’t run a bad race since he came back. It’s great to win with him again.”
Trainer Philip Dempsey continued his rich vein of form (four of his last five runners have won) when Dinnie’s Vinnie, a half-brother to Dunguib, swooped on the run-in, under his son Luke, to foil Better Be Quick in the Promote Your Business At Fairyhouse Handicap Chase – Night Sir came through to finish second, beaten four lengths.
“The horses are running great, ” stated Dempsey. “We had two point-to-point winners at the weekend, including Champagne Fever’s full-brother, and now this. This horse won his point-to-point, but was off for a year with a leg so it’s great to get today out of him. We might go for something small and similar.”
In-form Pat Fahy introduced a smart newcomer The Green Lady (20/1) to win the mares bumper as the daughter of Westerner made all, for Jane Mangan, to score by eight and a half lengths from So Sorry Sarah.
“She has an old-fashioned National Hunt pedigree and has been doing everything right at home,” said Fahy, “Brian Hayes rode her work here and liked her.
“She has kept improving at home, although she has never done anything that said she’d win like that.
“She’ll get an entry in the listed mares bumper in Punchestown and we’ll see how she is.”
- Willie Mullins clawed back a fraction of the deficit in the battle for the trainers’ championship by saddling the first two home in the British Stallions Future Champions EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle at Perth.
Though Paul Nicholls also secured a winner on the day, when All Set To Go obliged at Taunton, Mullins was marginally on top for the day after he added £14,587 to the kitty.
Mullins held a commanding lead over Paul Nicholls prior to last weekend, but it has been one-way traffic since.
But Mullins was back in the game in Scotland and enjoyed a perfect result, with Up For Review leading home stable companion Nambour.
Up For Review was the 5-1 outsider of four runners, having disappointed on his last few starts, but bounced back to form under a well-judged front-running ride from Paul Townend.
Mullins now trails Nicholls by over £43,200 after All Set To Go (4-5 favourite) hit the target in the Bathwick Tyres Yeovil Novices’ Hurdle, earning £4,873 in the process.
The Ditcheat handler suffered a surprising reverse 35 minutes earlier, though, as 4-11 favourite Antartica De Thaix could only pocket £1,431 by finishing second to Rejaah in the Bathwick Tyres Bath Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Mullins, who is looking to become the first Irish-based trainer to claim the British title since the legendary Vincent O’Brien in the 1950s, is doubly represented on the second day of Perth’s three-day fixture today.
French recruit Townshend has let down favourite-backers on each of his two starts for the Closutton maestro to date at Fairyhouse and Kempton. Connections will be hoping he can bounce back in the opening Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer Novices’ Hurdle.
Later in the afternoon, Mullins runs Tennis Cap in the more valuable Lindsays Handicap Chase. Run for the Kilmany Challenge Cup, the two-and-a-half-mile contest carries a total prize fund of £25,000 and Tennis Cap appears to have solid claims judged on a recent victory over hurdles at Cork.
Nicholls is not represented in Scotland, but saddles 10 runners across the two cards at Exeter and Warwick.
The key race for Nicholls, however, is the Close Brothers Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase at Warwick.
Nicholls’ runner Stilletto only made it as far as the third fence at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, but had previously impressed at Leicester and is a likely candidate to claim the £15,640 first prize if he safely negotiates the obstacles in this two-mile heat.