Just cause for Elliott at Navan
CAUSE Of Causes got up on the line to deny Midnight Game in a thrilling finish to the Follow Navan On Facebook Hurdle.
Midnight Game was the 5-6 favourite to complete a hat-trick for Willie Mullins and Davy Russell, with the Gordon Elliott-trained Cause Of Causes 6-4 to follow up his lucrative victory in The Ladbroke at Ascot last month.
Midnight Game led his major rival for much of the two-mile journey, with the only other runner Hisaabaat settled last of the three.
The market leader looked sure to win as he travelled powerfully into the straight and Russell was still sat motionless jumping the final flight.
However, Davy Condon kept working on Cause Of Causes and his endeavour was rewarded as his mount winged the last and galloped strongly to the line to get up by a short-head.
Elliott said: "It was a bit of a cat and mouse race and a better pace would have suited.
"He's an honest horse. He'll go now for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on February 9.
"We'll look for something in Cheltenham after that. I might run him in the Supreme (Novices' Hurdle). He's got loads of experience, I'm not saying he's good enough to beat the real good ones, but he'll come home strong in a race like that.
"He could be a good Flat handicapper during the summer."
Blissful Moment opened his account over obstacles at the sixth attempt with a determined effort in the 2013 Navan Membership Maiden Hurdle.
Fitted with blinkers for the first time, the well supported 15-8 favourite looked set to suffer yet another defeat as he was being ridden along to keep tabs on the strong-travelling Mr Cosmopolitan heading up the home straight.
But Blissful Moment responded to Paul Carberry's urgings, was almost on terms jumping the final flight and stayed on better than Mr Cosmopolitan on the run-in to take top honours by three and three-quarter lengths.
Winning trainer Noel Meade said: "At no stage did I think he was going to win. In fairness though he probably doesn't want the ground that heavy.
"He does want further. I thought the blinkers might help to carry him along a bit."
Elliott and Carberry combined for doubles as 3-1 favourite Barneys Honour cruised clear in the Meath Handicap Hurdle.
The market leader travelled powerfully throughout and picked up well in the testing conditions to pass the post with four lengths in hand over veteran Chestnut Charlie.
"He had a leg and he was off for a while. On his first run back at Christmas he ran well. I thought he wouldn't be too far away today," said Elliott.
Ruby Walsh struck gold on his only ride of the day as Limerick bumper winner Suntiep made a winning start to his jumping career in the Navan Golf Course Maiden Hurdle.
The 7-4 favourite was never too far off the pace in the two-mile-seven-furlong contest and tracked long-time leader Hard To Swallow into the straight.
The latter did not give in without a fight and still held a narrow advantage jumping the final obstacle, but Suntiep dug deep for Walsh on the run to the line and got on top close home to score by a length and three-quarters.
Winning trainer Willie Mullins said: "This fellow gallops all day and jumps fantastic.
"That's his game - jumping and staying. He's a real out and out stayer.
"We'll be aiming him at that sort of trip again. We'll probably be looking at Fairyhouse at Easter for him, but the owner is from England, so he might want him to travel (to Cheltenham)."
Smart hurdler Alderwood made it third time lucky over fences in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Beginners Chase.
The winner of last season's County Hurdle at Cheltenham before claiming major novice prizes at the Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals, Alderwood slipped up on his fencing bow at Navan before finishing third at Fairyhouse.
Sent off the 8-11 favourite, Tom Mullins' stable star fenced fluently at the few obstacles that could be seen in the gathering fog and beat off Prima Vista after the final fence by a length and a half.
Mullins said: "I'm delighted that he's won again after last season. Mark (Walsh) said the ground was more testing than he wanted.
"It turned into a bit of a slog in the end but I'm happy nonetheless. We'll try to keep him away from that ground and he may run in a handicap before Cheltenham.
"That was not an Arkle performance and I'd be thinking in terms of a handicap for him at Cheltenham (Festival)."