Arvika Ligeonniere is set to test his Arkle credentials at Leopardstown over Christmas after making all for an impressive success in the Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.
The 2-1 chance soon opened up a huge advantage over the field in the hands of Ruby Walsh, and while the pack briefly threatened to close, that impression was only temporary and his rider could afford to look round twice between the last two fences.
Even-money favourite Dedigout was starting to toil and the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old safely negotiated the last to make it two wins from as many starts over fences.
Mullins said: “He has a tremendous cruising speed and we wouldn’t be afraid to go back to two miles – that’s maybe his job.
“He has the jumping ability, along with the pace. Until we see that he’s not able to do it over two miles we’ll go that way first. We’ll look at Christmas now (at Leopardstown).”
Stan James were impressed and cut the winner to 8-1 from 16s for the Arkle.
Mullins, Walsh and owner Rich Ricci struck again as Zaidpour dug deep to claim the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, showing a great attitude in going past fellow joint-favourite Voler La Vedette going to the last, after the star mare had moved smoothly to the lead two out, where long-time leader So Young made a mistake.
Voler La Vedette lost second on the run to the line as Monksland finished well.
A clash with Big Buck’s looks in the offing for Zaidpour at Cheltenham.
Mullins said: “I think he’s improved so we’ll go along those lines (Ladbrokes World Hurdle).”
The Mullins treble was brought up in the bumper as Outlander (4-1) stayed on strongly to score under the trainer’s son, Patrick.
There was a reverse for the Mullins team, with Champagne Fever finding Jezki too good as Jessica Harrington’s charge recorded a hat-trick in the Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.
Champagne Fever, last season’s Champion Bumper hero, attempted to make all of the running and still held an advantage after the last flight.
But Barry Geraghty and Jezki (9-4) looked to be travelling the stronger along the run-in and showed plenty of fight to take the Grade One over two miles.
Harrington said: “The Supreme Novices’ (Hurdle) is the long-term target as he’s a two-miler. We’ll have to discuss plans with the owner but he’ll have at least one more run before Cheltenham.
“He could easily run at Christmas (if the ground is good) and after that I don’t know. He’s only four and he’s bound to improve a bit for more experience.”
Another winner with Cheltenham on the long-range radar was the Dessie Hughes-trained Our Conor, who earned a 12-1 from 25-1 quote from Coral for the Triumph Hurdle after taking the Bar One Racing Juvenile 3-Y-O Hurdle.
Hughes said: “He may go to Leopardstown at Christmas – there’s no reason why he wouldn’t. He’s a natural.”
When asked whether Our Conor could be a Triumph Hurdle horse, Hughes said: “I think you’d have to say he is.”