Damien McElroy's Race Reads: Day 1
1.30 Supreme Novices Hurdle : A surprise outcome with both the ex-Irish Menorah and Get Me Out Of Here proving too lively for hotpot Dunguib, which was on the outer all the way, but was found wanting for a finishing kick.
Relishing a fast-run contest after defeats in muddling events, Menorah was in pole position along the inner throughout the closing stages, as Get Me Out Of Here also took the shortest way round.
Heading to two out, Menorah jinked approaching the flight, causing the runner-up's pilot Tony McCoy to check somewhat, as Dunguib recovered from a couple of sketchy jumps to close on the pack.
The new siting of the final flight much closer to the finishing line meant there was precious little time for the Irish favourite to get to grips with the principals as Richard Johnson just held arch-rival McCoy's mount at bay.
Dunguib "had every chance" according to regular partner Brian O'Connell, while trainer Philip Fenton conceded: "Things just didn't work out, but he's back in one piece and we live to fight another day."
2.05 Irish Independent Arkle Trophy
A majestic performance from a top-form Sizing Europe, whose connections were compensated to a large extent for their acute disappointment when the horse was injured in the 2008 Champion Hurdle.
Given a break since his hard-earned Leopardstown win over Osana after Christmas, this pair proved the horses to beat after the pacesetting Mad Max had blundered two out, when Somersby was closing.
Off the home bend it was obvious Andrew Lynch's mount had plenty left to face the hill and another clean jump at the final fence sealed Osana's fate as Somersby made relentless progress to divide them at the post.
Jumping mistakes were no help to those who put their faith in the favourite Captain Cee Bee, particularly with the horses in front continually piling on the pressure. It was reported that the gelding had bled.
2.40 William Hill Trophy
The sponsors and their bookmaking colleagues got one of those dream results in this event when young Paddy Aspell kept Chief Dan George going long enough to foil a concerted plunge on The Package.
Last year's Irish Grand National hero Niche Market had taken over the front-running role at halfway, but was soon headed by the winner and Ogee before two out as Timmy Murphy got to work on the favourite.
From the final bend it was clear that Aspell had the measure of Ogee and a fine jump over the last gave Chief Dan George sufficient momentum to foil the frantic efforts of Murphy to pull the prize out of the fire.
3.20 Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle
A year on and much better fortune this time for Binocular with more positive tactics paying a substantial dividend for a horse ruled out of the race a couple of weeks ago, before making a miraculous recovery.
Placed here for the past two seasons, there was no mistaking the 9/1 chance's obvious superiority as Tony McCoy headed round the last bend with his hands full before sending the gelding clear over the last.
Always close to the pace set by Celestial Halo in first-time blinkers, Zaynar kept going gamely to shadow the winner into the straight where Khyber Kim emerged as a brief threat until the die was cast firmly in Binocular's favour.
The favourite Go Native was struggling after a bad mistake at the second flight, yet was closing steadily on the leaders approaching two out and flattered briefly in fifth turning for home where his progress petered out.
4.0 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
Another turn-up here as Michael Hourigan's busy campaigner A New Story took the limelight from the Enda Bolger team, best of whom was former star L'Ami after a troubled passage for favourite Garde Champetre.
A couple of untidy jumps by Garde Champetre were compounded when the top weight blundered four out, where Nina Carberry did well to stay in the saddle, and then found her path blocked off the last bend.
Meanwhile, sprightly veteran A New Story had been travelling better than most under a light weight for teenager Adrian Heskin and they seized the initiative over the last as L'Ami also went by Lacdoudal.
From that point onwards, the weight began to tell on last year's runner-up L'Ami and there was simply no stopping Hourigan's charge, with Lacdoudal barely getting home for third money from Another Jewel.
4.40 David Nicholson Mares Hurdle
Pre-festival rumours about the wellbeing of last year's runaway heroine Quevega proved well wide of the mark as she turned in a powerful performance in keeping with her official BHA rating of 156.
Settled nicely from the outset in company with main market rival Voler La Vedette, the winner made stealthy ground around the outside from the second last and was full of running as she swept past Carole's Legacy.
In control at the final flight, Quevega was never going to be matched for pace by Voler La Vedette, whose stamina gave out as Carole's Legacy maintained her effort all the way to split the pair.