Acapella Bourgeois hits the right notes as Walsh clings on
Ruby Walsh survived a last-flight blunder to maintain the domination of the Hughes family in the Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles with Acapella Bourgeois.
After three successive wins for Dessie Hughes with Lyreen Legend, Bright New Dawn and Giantofaman, Sandra Hughes took on the mantle after his sad passing and won last year's renewal with Sub Lieutenant.
Sent off the 5/2 second-favourite, Walsh set out to make all and his task was made easier by the fact the market leader Our Duke ran no race at all and was pulled up.
Barry Geraghty still had a chance on Aidan O'Brien's Edwulf when he fell coming out of the back straight, leaving Willie Mullins' Nambour as the only danger.
Acapella Bourgeois appeared to be getting the better of the battle when he absolutely flattened the final flight and Walsh did well to stay in the saddle, eventually securing victory by five lengths.
"That was a very good performance, having made a novicey mistake at the last. It was the fastest he had ever raced down to a hurdle," said Hughes.
"Ruby was impressed with him. He is a real big-striding horse. This track wouldn't really suit him, but this was a good opportunity and we now have options with him.
"He's in at Cheltenham, but we could bypass it and go to either Fairyhouse or Aintree. He'll be better on better ground."
Walsh, who has had a couple of high-profile exits of late, also won the Mares Beginners Chase on 4/7 favourite Uranna, but he came a cropper at the last on Union Dues with the Killinan Maiden Hurdle at his mercy, opening the door for 11/8 favourite Hurricane Darwin.
Bryan Cooper, who was on Nambour in the feature, got the better of Walsh (Tennis Cap) when guiding Gordon Elliott's Lord Scoundrel (9/4) home in the Thurles Racecourse Rated Chase.
"From day one he was always a good jumper and his jumping was unreal today," said Cooper. "Real heavy ground caught him out a bit during the winter."