Sizing Europe maintained his unbeaten record over fences in the Grade One Board na Mona – With Nature Novice Chase at Leopardstown – but not without a scare.
Henry de Bromhead’s seven-year-old had taken over at the head of affairs from the front-running Osana on the journey to the second-last fence and all appeared to be going smoothly.
However, Mark Walsh, riding 2008 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Captain Cee Bee, had bided his time on Edward Harty’s chestnut and produced his mount to challenge at the last.
Apparently travelling the stronger, Captain Cee Bee unfortunately clipped the top of the fence and crashed to the ground, leaving Sizing Europe (evens favourite) to come home five and a half lengths clear of the slightly disappointing Osana to give Andrew Lynch another big-race winner.
Lynch said: “It was workmanlike more than anything else and he didn’t jump as well as he normally does, not with the same fluency.
“For some reason today he was hesitant. We had a bit of luck on our side with Captain Cee Bee falling, but you never know what would have happened.
“I had to use my lad earlier than I wanted to, just to get him jumping. I was in front longer than ideal as it is a long run-in at Leopardstown.
“I think he would have picked up a bit more, but whether he would have picked up enough (to beat Captain Cee Bee) you don’t know.
“I think you’ll see a different horse at Cheltenham.”
De Bromhead added: “I’m delighted with that. He didn’t jump as well as normal today, but he did jump well when it mattered.
“I was very worried coming down to the last, but he jumped it well. He is best when fresh. We will enjoy today before making future plans.”
Initially William Hill cut Captain Cee Bee to 12-1 from 16s but interest at that price saw a further cut to 9s for the Arkle in March. Sizing Europe was trimmed a point into 4-1 by totesport.
Carlito Brigante (20-1) burst on to the Triumph Hurdle scene with a blistering display for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell in the inforthenight.ie Juvenile Hurdle.
The race was supposed to see Edward O’Grady’s Alaivan confirm his position at the head of the Triumph market but he had no answer to the impressive winner, who came home 11 lengths clear.
Grand National-winning trainer Elliott said: “I’m surprised he was that price. He won a nice maiden at Musselburgh very well, and Jason Maguire, who rode him that day, recommended the horse to us.
“He’s done a few bits of work on nice ground and he’s a nice horse, although if he’d finished second or third we’d have been delighted. He’s a nice horse and he’ll jump a fence too. It’s great for Gigginstown Stud.”
He went on: “We’ll have a look at something like the Triumph but he has to have good ground wherever he goes.
“There’s a Triumph Hurdle trial back in Musselburgh, he might go there to get some experience but that would be it – he needs good ground.”
Totesport introduced the impressive winner into their Cheltenham market as their 8-1 favourite.
Whodoyouthink opened his account over hurdles at the third time of asking when strolling home in the Bord Na Mona – Clean Water Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Sent off the 5-2 favourite, Oliver McKiernan’s four-year-old was always travelling supremely well for Paddy Flood and he followed up the promise shown on his last start behind Summit Meeting.
Dermot Weld’s Universal Truth was quietly fancied having won three bumpers but he could only finish third with Oscar Close second, albeit 22 lengths away.
Weld did have better luck in the Irish Foal Levy Flat Race as Elegant Concorde (8-11 favourite) stormed home in the last.
“Robbie (McNamara) left him with plenty to do, he rode him with extreme confidence,” said Weld.
“This is a very good horse and the ground today was as soft as he would like. He has class, pace and stays and we will now wait and see how he is in the Springtime before making a decision about Cheltenham.”