Higgins digs deep to spring surprise for patient Power
Henry Higgins landed another big pot for owner JP McManus as Robbie Power showed all his experience to steer the 16/1 outsider to victory in the highly-competitive Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The six-year-old, trained by Charles O'Brien, got a dream run up the inside under a patient Power before challenging Kalkir at the final flight after Bentelimar had led into the straight.
One of eight horses running in the McManus silks, Henry Higgins was produced to the lead at the final flight and strode away on the run-in to score by two-and-a-quarter lengths from Kalkir, with Desoto County staying on well from the rear to claim third.
Predictably, O'Brien would love to have a crack at the County Hurdle at Cheltenham as it is named in memory of his late father, Vincent O'Brien.
"He always travelled well and we said we'd take a chance and drop him in as two miles is as far as he wants to go on that ground. He got a lovely ride from Robbie," he said.
"I suppose the County Hurdle is the way to go and an appropriate race to go for. It would be a bit special if he could win that. The bottom horse in it last year had a rating of 135, so he needed to do something here to get into it."
Young Jonathan Moore had his 7lb claim cut to 5lb when scooping a big-race success on Empire Of Dirt in the Coral.ie Leopardstown Handicap Chase.
One of three Gigginstown House representatives in an 11-runner line-up, Empire Of Dirt came through to lead after the second-last after old warrior Seabass had made the running.
The nine-year-old, trained by Colm Murphy, kept up the gallop to see off fellow Gigginstown runner Killer Crow by two-and-a-quarter lengths with Seabass just two lengths further back in third
"I would have been disappointed if he hadn't run well," said the Wexford handler. "When you are not popping in the winners, though, you don't have the same confidence as before.
"We're lucky we have a few nice horses, but that's the problem - we only have a few. He's been disappointing but has probably been unlucky."
Ruby Walsh made an amazing recovery on Killultagh Vic to gain a dramatic triumph in the novice chase. The 2/7 favourite, which had made the running, appeared to jump the last fence well but pitched on landing which allowed Blair Perrone and Lord Scoundrel to go past.
Walsh had lost an iron but that did not stop the ace horseman from gathering up the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old, which rallied in gallant fashion. He was back in front less than 100 yards from the finish and won by three-parts of a length from Blair Perrone.
Mullins said: "I thought he was gone and a lot of lads would have pulled him up. It was an extraordinary piece of riding and an extraordinary feat by the horse. Ruby said when he gave him a squeeze he took off and was going to the fence too fast. To do what he did, you wouldn't believe that could happen."
Earlier, Walsh had to play second fiddle to rising star of the weigh-room, Jack Kennedy, as the young conditional got the better of the champion jockey as he drove Golan Lodge to victory in the three-mile handicap hurdle.
Kennedy, who claims 5lb, gave Paul Nolan's 5/1 chance a patient ride on the outside before making his challenge in the straight and edging out Walsh aboard Childrens List by half a length.
Our Duke earned quotes of 20/1 for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham after making an impressive hurdling debut in the maiden hurdle.
Jessica Harrington's six-year-old (2/1) showed a likeable attitude under Robbie Power to fend off odds-on favourite Pylonthepressure by three lengths.
In the mares' maiden hurdle, Davy Russell delivered John Kiely's Pride Of The Braid (9/2) with a late lunge to shade favourite Billy's Hope by a nose.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained Aspen Colorado justified 13/8 favouritism by making a belated winning debut in the closing bumper. Originally bought for €250,000 until being snatched up for €20,000, the four-year-old looked a bright prospect on his racecourse bow.
Completing a double for McManus, the Galileo gelding bounded clear in the hands of O'Brien's daughter, Sarah.