De Bromhead magnanimous as Sizing John sinks his 'Sub'
If Henry de Bromhead needed advice on how to deal with one of your own being beaten by a former stablemate, he could have consulted Willie Mullins.
Sub Lieutenant, which has had such a fine season since moving to De Bromhead, looked set to take the Kinloch Brae after cruising to the front, one-time stablemate Smashing relenting after making the speed. However, another Alan Potts-owned steed, Sizing John, just wouldn't go away.
With the final fence omitted, the duel between the pair was prolonged, and Sizing John - which left De Bromhead for Jessica Harrington last year - asserted in the closing stages.
De Bromhead was quick to congratulate Harrington and was happy to say that the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival remains Sub Lieutenant's target. It's likely he will clash again with Sizing John then.
The run of Black Hercules will have left Mullins - which lost 60 Gigginstown-owned horses earlier this season - disappointed. The strong gallop saw him struggling to keep in touch and, though he plugged on, this was another comprehensive defeat for last year's JLT winner.
Harrington said after Robbie Power's victory aboard the 3/1 chance: "He was very relaxed all the way through the race and Robert said when he popped the fence after turning into the straight that he was always going to pick up.
"I'm delighted with him stepping up to two-and-a-half miles and he got the trip very well. I'll have to speak with Alan and Ann (Potts) to see where we go next with him. He has an entry in the Irish Gold Cup or he could go to the Red Mills at Gowran. You would imagine he is likely to go for the Ryanair."
De Bromhead, who took the opening maiden hurdle with the Dylan Robinson-ridden 100/30 chance Surf Instructor, said: "Sub Lieutenant had no excuses and it was a fine run, he deserves his chance in the Ryanair."
The Grade Two mares' novice chase proved less fortunate for Harrington. Keppols Queen had made much of the running, generally jumping for fun under Mark Bolger.
She was under duress coming to the last, and possibly suffered a loss of concentration, since the riderless Misty Lady had pestered her between the last two. The real winner would prove to be the 4/6 favourite Westerner Lady, which jumped a little left at times but did enough under Ruby Walsh.
She has now won ten races for Willie Mullins, three of them at graded level, and the trainer conceded that the lack of rain this winter was a factor in a tally that has surprised him.
He said: "She has been a fantastic servant to us all season and is doing way more than we envisaged. We were supposed to give her a break but I'm not going to until she gets beaten.
"We will keep her to mares' races. She tends to jump a bit left but Ruby was happy enough, and she probably prefers being out on her own a bit.
"There was a race on at the last but it was our day today. The mild winter we've had has helped her to gain all these wins as I never dreamt of her going on real heavy ground.
"She can run again in three weeks' time. She is easy to train and does her job. I will keep her to this job (fences), and I don't think we will enter her for Cheltenham," added Mullins, whose maiden hurdle winner Al Boum Photo (1/3f) may also go to the Festival.
Gordon Elliott recorded a double, The Storyteller bolting up under Jack Kennedy in the novice hurdle at 5/2, while it was hard to believe that Realt Mor was sent off 25/1 in the handicap, scoring nicely under Keith Donoghue.
The hunter chase saw some old favourites clash in company once below them. Foxrock, a close third in the Lexus just over a year ago, justified 4/6 favouritism by beating On His Own, which was touched off in the Gold Cup less than three years ago. Neither horse is eligible for the Foxhunter Chase.
Winter Magic jumped brilliantly to win the handicap chase at 6/1 under Davy Russell for Jimmy Mangan.