Quel Esprit is set for a step up in class after a facile success in the Beamish Stout Phil Sweeney Memorial Chase at Thurles.
Following a torrid end to his novice campaign, the Willie Mullins-trained grey enjoyed a confidence-boosting success at Naas first time out this season, and duly made the most of another nice opportunity.
Sent off the 2-7 favourite, Quel Esprit jumped with aplomb for Paul Townend on his way to a 15-length win over Whodoyouthink in the Grade Three event, with the result never looking in doubt.
Mullins said: “He jumped well enough and we’ll up him in class now.
“He might come back here for the Kinloch Brae (January 19) or maybe I should kick him up a gear and go for the (Irish) Hennessy.”
Stan James left Quel Esprit unchanged at 40-1 for the Betfred Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Mullins also won the bumper as Mozoltov (1-3 favourite) made all for a comfortable triumph.
The Kayf Tara gelding had chased home the top-class Mount Benbulben on his only other run.
Mullins said: “He did what we hoped he would do first time out. He’ll go for a winners bumper now and should improve for better ground.”
Stan James go 20-1 for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, and spokesman Joseph Burke said: “It’s difficult to get a handle on what he beat, but he did it in style and could be anything.”
Henry de Bromhead was on the mark with former Cheltenham Festival winner Berties Dream (6-4 joint-favourite) in the Devil’s Bit Beginners Chase.
He won the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in 2010 but had been winless since, despite putting up some good performances.
Having joined De Bromhead for the start of this season from Paul Gilligan, the nine-year-old made every yard of the running under Andrew Lynch to run out a facile 24-length winner from fellow market leader Marlay Park.
De Bromhead said: “I’m delighted for the horse and it’s great to see him back with a win.
“His next race could be the three-mile novice at Navan in February – the Ten Up Novice Chase.
“Looking longer term he could also go for the National Trial in February with the Irish National in mind.
“The lads love Cheltenham so maybe the RSA Chase is a possible. He’s not an amateur’s ride so maybe not the four-miler.”
Stan James gave Berties Dream an introductory quote of 33-1 for the RSA.
Jack Bene just held on in the thurles.ie Maiden Hurdle to give De Bromhead and Lynch a double.
Sent off the 5-4 favourite, the six-year-old was certainly not winning out of turn after a string of good efforts recently.
“That was brilliant. He deserved it so much,” said De Bromhead.
“He’s rated 115 so the bumper winners would have had to run to 123 to beat him.
“He was unlucky to meet Archie Meade last time and the pair pulled 31 lengths clear of the third.
“We can’t wait to go chasing with him. He may be better on better ground and is a real dour stayer.
“We’ll probably take it easy with him now and look to the spring.”
Lynch later partnered Fiery Oscar (5-1) to success in the two-mile handicap hurdle for Rodger Sweeney.
There was also a first win under Rules for trainer David Finn as Torremuelle just held on in the Kennedy’s Parnell St. Live Music Venue Handicap Chase.
“I train mainly point-to-pointers. This fella showed plenty two years ago but all my horses were wrong after that,” said Finn.
“He ran very well the last day. There are not enough of these races for this type of horse. They all tend to come at once.”