Bog Warrior revels in Punchestown mud to see off Solwhit
Bog Warrior continued his rehabilitation over hurdles at Punchestown as he got the better of a returning Solwhit in the Follow Punchestown On Facebook Hurdle.
Installed 11/8 favourite following a confidence-boosting win over hurdles at Fairyhouse, Tony Martin's Grade One-winning chaser raced with enthusiasm throughout for Davy Russell.
While Bog Warrior will have delighted Russell, the Youghal rider will doubtless have been keeping a watching brief on Solwhit, which the champion jockey partnered to a brace of Grade One wins in the past.
Bog Warrior and Russell kicked on from before the home turn as Solwhit – making his eagerly anticipated return from over 700 days on the sidelines – tried to go in pursuit. Solwhit's lack of race-fitness took its toll in the straight and Bog Warrior pulled clear for a six-and-a-half-length verdict.
"I'm thrilled with that," said winning trainer Martin. "There was no hiding place for anything there. I'll have a chat with the boys (owners, Gigginstown House Stud) and see what way they want to go.
"It's just great to get a couple of wins with him. I'm just happy to go for something nice after today."
Paddy Power make Bog Warrior a 12/1 shot for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
As for the runner-up, trainer Charles Byrnes was thrilled with his charge. "I'm well pleased with that. Andrew (Lynch) said he gave a good blow after the second last and the winner is a good horse on that ground," he said. "I'm happy going forward now and hopefully he's okay in the morning. We could look at the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas over two miles and three furlongs (January 19), or the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran (January 24) over three miles."
Russell went on to complete a double as the Noel Meade-trained Hartside ran out a fortuitous winner of the juvenile hurdle.
The 5/2 shot was booked for a distant second until long odds-on favourite Fatcatinthehat came to grief at the final obstacle.
Willie Mullins is eyeing a crack at the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham for Vesper Bell (5/4) following his 15-length triumph in the three-mile beginners' chase. Odds-on favourite You Must Know Me was found to be lame post-race.
Brian Cawley produced Denis Hogan's 2/1 favourite Luke's Benefit with a withering late run to take the two-mile handicap chase for the second year running.
Dessie Hughes and Bryan Cooper combined to take the staying handicap hurdle with Canaly, while the Prunella Dobbs-trained Our Pollyanna ran away with the concluding bumper.