Kempes' Hennessy glory boosts Mullins
An unprecedented seventh Hennessy Gold Cup triumph for champion trainer Willie Mullins courtesy of his only surviving runner Kempes and David Casey masked an otherwise trying Saturday session at Leopardstown for the stable and its legion of loyal followers.
Despite making a belated Hennessy breakthrough on behalf of Limerick owner JP McManus, Mullins was left to ponder where he goes next with favourites Zaidpour and Mikael D'Haguenet after their latest defeats at the Dublin track watched by 7,650 spectators.
These French imports, not surprisingly, were immediately on the drift to 10/1 and 14/1 with the major firms for their intended Cheltenham Festival targets, the Supreme Novices Hurdle and the RSA Chase, while the ante-post layers didn't consider Kempes a live threat to the home team in the Gold Cup despite coping well with softer ground than is considered ideal for him at the Foxrock venue where a fine leap over the final fence put the issue beyond doubt.
William Hill introduced Kempes as a 25/1 chance to wrest the Blue Riband from Imperial Commander and company in the Cotswolds where the progressive Intikhab gelding is likely to be favoured by better going on which he first prospered in top-level company at Punchestown last April when beating China Rock.
But the delayed Hennessy promotion was marred by the fatal collapse of Eoin Griffin's 25/1 runner-up Glencove Marina soon after the finish and what proved a life-ending leg injury suffered early on by Money Trix, not to mention the sight of 2008 hero The Listener trailing the survivors on his final run before retirement.
Glencove Marina's first-time partner Robbie Power proved the star performer of the afternoon however in association with his main employer Jessica Harrington, for whom he guided a steely determined Bostons Angel and the fast-improving Oscars Well to successive Grade One victories.
The complexion of the Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase changed dramatically two out where the gambled-on Quel Esprit departed and badly impeded stablemate Mikael D'Haguenet as Bostons Angel and Magnanimity were already going hammer and tongs up front in a protracted duel between these gritty Winged Love geldings that was only resolved in favour of Power's 8/1 mount by a head at the finish.
The Mullins hotpot Zaidpour, Shot From The Hip and Dermot Weld's Grade One bumper winner Hidden Universe simply could not live with Oscars Well once Power produced Mrs Harrington's hat-trick seeker with a withering challenge off the final bend in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle.
While you can still back Bostons Angel at 20/1 with Ladbrokes for the RSA Chase, Oscars Well was shortened up to 7/1 from 20/1 by Hills for Cheltenham's Neptune Novices Hurdle with jockey Power enthusing: "He has a great cruising speed and stays well."
The bookmakers were also quick to slash the JCB Triumph Hurdle odds of Moyglare Stud's Unaccompanied in the wake of the Danehill Dancer filly's second ready win under Paul Townend in as many starts over timber in the opening Tote Spring Juvenile Hurdle.
Hills opted to go 8/1 (from 14/1) but Ladbrokes halved her price to 6/1 joint favourite with Grandouet after hearing Dermot Weld confirm the Triumph Hurdle as next on the agenda before remarking: "She loves jumping and is adaptable ground-wise."