Dunguib third on Naas return
Dunguib got on the comeback trail with a pleasing third place on his first run for 1,040 days as Rule The World staked a claim for top honours when winning in the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas.
Bryan Cooper made all of the running on the Mouse Morris-trained 5/4 favourite for his bosses Gigginstown House Stud to land the Grade Three contest by seven-and-a-half lengths from Jennies Jewel and book his place in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Most eyes, though, were on Dunguib as Philip Fenton's 2009 Cheltenham champion bumper hero made a highly-encouraging return from injury.
Sidelined since finishing unplaced in the 2011 Champion Hurdle, the 11-year-old was held up in the rear by Brian O'Connell before making progress in the straight which he maintained to the line.
"I expected him to get tired sooner. Hopefully he'll be OK in the morning and the Red Mills at Gowran (February 15) is a possibility," Fenton said.
Rule The World will head straight for the World Hurdle and was trimmed to around the 14/1 mark. "The ground and making the running were not ideal, but it was a good performance," said Morris.
The Ted Walsh-trained Foxrock (11/8 fav) ground out victory over the testing three miles in the Woodlands Park 100 Club Novice Chase. Rogue Angel did the donkey work in front but had nothing left from the third-last. Foxrock, ridden by Danny Mullins for owner Barry Connell, found more stamina reserves and wore down Sizing Gold to land this Grade Two by seven lengths.
"The plan is to go for the Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan next month and then the four-miler at Cheltenham," said Connell.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins won the first and last races on the card. Ivan Grozny (8/13 fav) stepped up on his promising run when second on his jumps debut to strike by 12 lengths under Ruby Walsh in the opening Book Hospitality On Line Maiden Hurdle, while Killultagh Vic (4/9 fav) won the concluding Tipper Road (Pro-Am) INH Flat Race. Wexford trainer Liz Doyle grabbed a 254/1 brace with Glen Beg (33/1) and Reality Dose (13/2).
Meanwhile, Gary Moore now has no alternative but to aim Sire De Grugy for Cheltenham after the chestnut raised his standard yet again in the Grade One Sodexo Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
Sire De Grugy managed a reasonable impression of Sprinter Sacre in collecting his second Grade One of the season, with jockey Jamie Moore admitting "he was having a laugh at them" as he sauntered clear of 'Shark' Hanlon's raider Hidden Cyclone by 11 lengths.