Oscars Well will head to Leopardstown in the New Year after a stunning success in the Grade One Navan Novice Hurdle.
Jessica Harrington’s five-year-old (9-4) travelled strongly throughout the two-and-a-half-mile affair in the hands of Robbie Power, and jumped with real dash.
As favourite and long-time leader Fully Funded began to weaken, Oscars Well was cantering all over his rivals with three to jump and was not at all pressed to account for Sweet Shock by eight lengths.
Paddy Power reacted with first-show quotes of 16-1 for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in March and 33-1 for the shorter Neptune Novices’ Hurdle, which is set to be his target.
The race had looked to have lost some its lustre following the defection of the unbeaten Hidden Cyclone due to ground conditions, but Harrington was not worrying about that.
She said: “I know Hidden Cyclone came out of the race but my horse couldn’t have done any more than he did. Robbie even said he hated today’s tacky ground.
“He travels very well in his races, but we may have to get him to switch off a little.
“He’ll go for the Grade Two novice hurdle at Leopardstown at the end of January next and hopefully he’ll be capable of carrying his Grade One penalty.
“The Neptune at Cheltenham is his long-term target.”
Rigour Back Bob (7-1) stayed on best of all to take the Philips Electronics Tara Hurdle in the hands of Andrew McNamara.
Aitmatov had disputed matters in the Grade Two contest for a long way with Son Amix but the former dropped away tamely at the business end.
Alpine Glade in contrast loomed up going seemingly best of all approaching two out, but she was not brilliant at the last and it was the Edward O’Grady-trained Rigour Back Bob who proved strongest, despite being only third jumping the final obstacle.
Stonemaster rallied to edge Alpine Glade for second close home.
John McIntyre of the winning Gaticoma Syndicate said: “Rigour Back Bob lives out in a field and today’s cold weather wouldn’t have bothered him!
“The horse did us proud last season, but Edward said he couldn’t believe how well he did during the summer and it took him two runs to get him back fit.
“The World Hurdle at Cheltenham is my favourite race at the Festival and hopefully he might be good enough to run in it some year.”
McNamara added: “He’s very tough and he jumped the final flight well. The ground is riding almost yielding to soft and that probably helped him.”