From just four runners and four favourites on the seven-race programme, Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh came out on top on two occasions, the highlight of which was the debut victory of Riven Light in the Cahir Maiden Hurdle.
Walsh looked confident throughout but bumper winner Hardline was upsides until falling at the last, and that left the long odds-on favourite to coast home clear of the remainder.
Introductory offers for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, which start at 25-1 and dip as low as 16-1, may be fanciful based on this performance, but he warmed his task of jumping and is another promising, ex-French novice in the Rich Ricci colours.
“I think two miles is far enough, I don’t feel the need to go up in trip with this fella,” said Mullins. “I think he has enough speed to stick at this trip, and will head for a nice novice hurdle at Christmas.”
Winning rider Walsh added: “It was a steadily run race but my horse had a lot of flat speed, so I didn’t see the point in making it a test of stamina.”
Mullins and Walsh doubled up when Aussie Reigns, a high-class recruit from the flat, built on the promise of his hurdling debut by taking the Holycross Maiden.
Coincidentally, as with their previous winner, there was a little luck on their side at the last flight, as the challenging Montana Belle made a bad mistake, all but pitching claimer Dylan Robinson out of the saddle.
By the time the young rider had recovered, it was too late, as the well-backed Aussie Reigns picked up well to hit the line running hard.
“We were probably fortunate enough the other horse made a mistake at the last,” said Mullins. “I’ll be going out in trip with that fella. Great to win over two miles, but he’d want two and a half miles every day of the week.”
Of the ground, officially yielding, good in places, Mullins added: “We’re lucky to have these conditions at this time of the year, and whether he’ll handle heavy winter ground or not I don’t know.”
Away from the action at Thurles, Mullins revealed that Douvan, who was not declared for tomorrow afternoon’s Tingle Creek at Sandown, will likely turn up in Cork for the Hilly Way Chase on Sunday-week.
While they may have had last-flight fortune over hurdles, the final fence in the opening race, the Killinan Beginners’ Chase, proved an obstacle too far for their favourite, Bachasson, who had been in contention until that incident, in which Total Recall was brought down.
Victory went to the promising Tully East, who stalked the pace for most of the race, moved into contention as it entered the business end and, in action masked by the fog, looked to have been getting on top when his closest pursuers departed.
“Thrilled to get back on the board,” admitted winning trainer Alan Fleming, referring to a barren spell over a quiet summer period for the yard. “Denis (O’Regan, winning rider) was mighty impressed with him, and we have him entered in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas, and so we may go for that next.
“We have a few ready to get going now, and a couple to really look forward to at Navan on Sunday-week.”
O’Regan added: “He was definitely in front jumping the last. I picked up and was gone by. I don’t know how far ahead, but I just know that he was rolling, and we kept on rolling. I was delighted with the performance.”
Miss Me Now was another favourite for Mullins and Walsh when she went to post for the mares’ hurdle but she didn’t travel with any enthusiasm, and was eventually pulled up as the spoils went to Kalopsia, trained by Joseph O’Brien and ridden by Mark Walsh, for owner JP McManus.
Fortunately, the fog had lifted prior to the second race, as two greys, Mick The Jiver and favourite Smadynium, fought out the finish and the former, ridden by David Splaine for Eoghan O’Grady, was always doing enough, despite a last-fence mistake.
There was late support for Ballynaclash Warrior, trained by Richie Rath, prior to the start of the Templemore Handicap Hurdle, and it proved well-founded as he eased upsides strong favourite Neddyvaughan in the straight, before asserting late for a comfortable success, at 12-1.
Ronald O’Leary’s Queeny (8-1) was the subject of overnight support for the finale, a Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle, and she duly obliged, under Ricky Doyle.