Solerina took another step towards the top of the hurdling ladder with an impressive success at Fairyhouse today.
James Bowe’s six-year-old mare made all the running in the Grade One Ballymore Properties Hatton’s Grace Hurdle to record her eighth win from 10 starts over jumps.
She was smartly into her stride and set a good gallop under Gary Hutchinson in the two-and-a-half-mile heat.
The 7-4 joint-favourite just bowled along in front while Geraghty kept the other market leader Sacundai handy in fourth place.
However, Hutchinson kicked on turning for home and Sacundai faded out of contention quickly while Fota Island emerged as Solerina’s main challenger.
He crashed out at the second last though leaving Solerina to record an eight-length victory over stablemate Florida Coast who stayed on really well for second five lengths ahead of Scarthy Lad.
Davenport Milenium, having his first race for 11 months, kept on well for fourth just a head behind Scarthy Lad.
Ladbrokes cut Solerina’s price for the Bonusprint Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival to 5-1 from 8-1.
Her owner John Bowe, son of the trainer, said: “She never missed a hurdle and young Gary Hutchinson gets on so well with her we were happy to give him the chance today.
“She’s entered over two and a half at Navan but she’ll have a 10lb penalty and we’ll probably go for the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown back over two miles and at that trip the softer the ground, the better for her.”
John Bowe’s brother Michael, owner of the runner-up and breeder of both first and second as well as being assistant to his father, said: “Solerina keeps amazing me. She’d never impress you in her homework but she seems to rise to the occasion on the racetrack.
“We are still in two minds whether she’s a two or three-miler.
“Florida Coast has had leg trouble so it has been very hard to get him fit so I was delighted to see run through to be second.
“It’s amazing to see half-sister and half-brother finishing first and second in a Grade One.”
Willie Mullins was satisfied with Davenport Milenium’s effort.
He said: “I was pleased with that and he could go for the Bula at Cheltenham on Saturday week.”
Davenport Milenium’s jockey Ruby Walsh added: “He’s run a cracker on his first run back.”
Fresh from his win on Strong Flow in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday, Walsh enjoyed another big-race success earlier on the Fairyhouse card when Nil Desperandum ran away with the Pierse Group Drinmore Novice Chase.
The 11-4 chance was always in touch as Satco Express cut out the running pressed by Catalpa Cargo and Pizarro.
Nil Desperandum made ground to take up a challenging position off the final bend.
Walsh sent his mount into the lead three out, where 7-4 favourite Pizarro pulled up, and a good jump there saw Frances Crowley’s charge begin to draw away from his field.
Galloping on strongly Nil Desperandum had 14 lengths to spare over Catalpa Cargo at the line with Ballyamber a further length away in third.
Following the win Ladbrokes quoted Nil Desperandum at 10-1 from 20-1 for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Walsh said: “He’s not over big but he jumps well and he was cantering most of the way.
“It’s been a great weekend for me.”
Miss Crowley confirmed the Royal & SunAlliance was Nil Desperandum’s main target.
She said: “The horse goes to Leopardstown for the William Neville & Sons Chase over three miles and then the SunAlliance will be his aim.
“He’s so athletic and a really good jumper but I couldn’t believe how easily he won.”
Part-owner Michael Shone, who lives in Sunningdale, said: “This is my biggest win in Ireland and we are looking forward to him going to Cheltenham.
“Back in 1979 I had a winner there called Fair View, trained by George Fairburn, and I also had plenty of success with a horse called Castle Warden.”
Pizarro’s jockey Barry Geraghty was never happy and he said: “He wasn’t travelling as well as he should have been or jumping well enough.”
Newmill benefited from an enterprising ride from Garret Cotter to record a memorable success in the Boylesports Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.
Cotter wasted no time in sending Newmill into the lead in the Grade One contest and the 13-2 chance soon established a clear advantage and at one stage was almost 30 lengths in front of the chasing pack headed by the 3-1 favourite Strike Back.
Strike Back made an effort to reduce the deficit with four of the 16 furlongs left to travel but was making heavy weather of the task and it was left to Mariah Rollins to close the gap.
Newmill was still going well as they turned for home with two flights left to jump but Mariah Rollins was beginning to reel in the leader.
However, sloppy jumps at the last two hurdles halted the challenger’s momentum and Newmill held on to land the winner’s purse of 45,500euros by three-quarters of a length from the staying-on Mariah Rollins (14-1) with Strike Back third.
Winning trainer Tom O’Leary, 30, was enjoying his biggest success to date.
He said: “He likes Fairyhouse, He won the Goffs Land Rover Bumper here first go and he’s a very fast horse in his paces and in his hurdling.”
And Cotter added: “No-one wanted to make it. He jumped really quick, which won it for us. A gave him a breather at halfway and then he took off again.”
Newmill is now to be aimed at the Paddy Power Future Champion Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 27.