Willie Mullins’ hot streak shows no sign of slowing down as the Irish champion trainer saddled his seventh winner of the Christmas period when Kempes took the O’Dwyers Stillorgan Orchard Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The former Frances Crowley inmate overcame a couple of errors in the closing stages under Ruby Walsh to put his best foot forward on the run-in to oblige as the 6-4 favourite.
Mullins said: “His previous experience over hurdles no doubt helped and he did it well.
“There are no immediate plans, but the way he stayed on after knocking down the last and losing his impetus suggests he will get further – he could be a horse for the Ballymore Properties’ at Cheltenham.”
Walsh completed a quick-fire double on his second ride at the Dublin track's festive meeting as he squeezed up the rail to take the Mongey Communications Novice Handicap Hurdle aboard Ross Accord.
Walsh had missed the opening two days riding for Paul Nicholls in England, but has wasted no time since arriving in his native land and drove the 11-2 favourite home by a length.
Winning trainer Tony Martin said: “He is a real good-moving horse and wants good ground. It was too heavy for him last time at Punchestown.
“I’ll give him a break now and bring him back for Fairyhouse and Punchestown in the spring. I’ll keep him going over the summer too and look at Galway.”
Trafford Lad suffered a surprise defeat as Casey Jones just edged him out in a thrilling finish to the Knight Frank Novice Chase.
Dusty Sheehy’s charge was sent off the 11-10 favourite and he was still travelling well under Tom
Doyle as he turned for home in the Grade One event.
As both Siegemaster and Bringbackthebiff began to toil, it looked as though Trafford Lad would pull clear and maintain his 100% record over fences.
However, 25-1 shot Casey Jones was answering Paul Carberry’s every call on the run-in, digging deep all the way to the line.
The Noel Meade-trained gelding eventually prevailed by half a length from Trafford Lad with Siegemaster plugging on for third.
Victor Chandler introduced Casey Jones as a 20-1 shot for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival while Trafford Lad is now 14s from 10-1 following his defeat.
Carberry said: “His win may be a surprise to a lot of people but it isn’t to me.
“I thought he would run well and this better ground really suits him. He won a beginners’ chase on heavy ground and he didn’t like it.
“He got into the race down the back with his jumping and he really stuck his neck out.
“I thought turning in that I had a bit up my sleeve but Trafford Lad is a tough horse and I didn’t get past him as easily as I thought I would.”
Sheehy felt his horse had lost little in defeat, adding: “He got there too soon.
“He got the three miles no problem but hit the front too soon.”
Catch Me justified 4-6 favouritism as he just held off the renewed challenge of Whatuthink in the woodiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle.
Earth Magic set out to make all but as the pressure began to tell, John Cullen made an early strike for home aboard Whatuthink.
He was in front coming to the final two flights but Andrew McNamara was ominously still aboard Catch Me, who was stepping up to three miles following victory in the Hatton’s Grace last time.
Catch Me was in front at the last but Whatuthink rallied gamely on the rail and although the winner slightly drifted across in the finish, he held on by a head.