Leinster National proves a Benefit Night for Condon
Benefit Night set himself up for a crack at the Midlands Grand National with a pillar-to-post success in yesterday's featured Lucan Racing Leinster National at Naas.
The 11-year-old had struggled since winning four races in the 2006-'07 season, which culminated in a win in the Grade Two Nas Na Riogh Chase.
However, racing from a mark some 18lb lower than that of his peak, he never saw another rival under a positive Davy Condon.
Sent off at 33/1, Benefit Night came home 11 lengths clear of his long-time pursuer Lurgan.
For his trainer Daniel O'Sullivan, it was a relief to see him back in the winner's enclosure.
"That's the first time he's had a light weight like that and he loves it around here. He'll probably go for the Midlands National at Uttoxeter," said O'Sullivan.
"He has to go left-handed and that's been a problem all along as it limits where he can go. His run in the cross-country last time sweetened him up."
Condon had earlier won on Dermot Weld's Prince Erik (6/1) in the Naas Directors Plate Novice Chase, which prevailed after a battle with Montan.
The grey seven-year-old ran in the 2007 Irish Derby and finished second in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham last March, but a return is unlikely.
"He's a very fit horse and he did it well," said Weld. "He's in two of the handicaps at Cheltenham, but I thought he had too much weight and I'd say he won't run."
Noel Meade's Dilshaan's Prize looks a nice prospect after his win in the novice hurdle, but the main story was the dismal showing of Willie Mullins' odds-on favourite Cottrelsbooley.
Paul Carberry was always going well on the winner, and he only had to be pushed out to beat Mackeys Forge by a length and a half.
Meade said: "That was great, just what we needed. He's a fair useful horse, but he's been dogged by injury. Every time he's run something has happened to him.
"He came back from Listowel with a crack in a hind leg and he's just been difficult. He'll go for another novice now and hopefully he'll stay sound."
The beaten favourite returned clinically abnormal.
Mullins had better luck in the three-mile maiden hurdle when the odds-on Lambro cruised to victory under Paul Townend. "The drier ground seemed to make a difference. He'll go for a winners-of-one now. He is a nice recruit," said Mullins.
Shirley Casper finally got it right over fences in the Billy Brophy Memorial Beginners' Chase.
Dessie Hughes' mare set out to make every yard of the running under Paddy Flood and never saw another rival.
"It's overdue. Good ground is the key to her and there's plenty of novices left for her. Once the ground dries up she'll improve a lot," said Hughes.
Silent Creek overcame a terrible final flight blunder to land the Naas Supporters Handicap Hurdle for Christy Roche and Alan Crowe.
The nine-year-old appeared to have put the race to bed when going three lengths clear approaching the last.
He ploughed through it, though, and Crowe did well to stay on board and then gather his mount up before managing to see off the renewed challenge of Accordion To Paddy to win by a length and a quarter.
Aupcharlie gained reward for his consistency when taking the bumper under Jason McKeown for trainer Pat Collins.
Elsewhere, Gordon Elliott's Backstage completed his preparations for the John Smith's Grand National in perfect style with a win in a point-to-point yesterday.
The nine-year-old was still going well in the Aintree showpiece last April when he unseated Davy Condon on the second circuit.
Ridden by Jamie Codd at The Pigeons in County Westmeath, Backstage burst past Tony Martin's Newbay Prop to win going away and now all roads lead to Liverpool.