Mullins eyeing Cheltenham step-up for Un De Sceaux
UN DE SCEAUX comfortably justified his prohibitive odds as he claimed the Horse & Jockey Hotel Hurdle at Thurles without coming off the bridle.
Successful in two French bumpers before making a big impression in winning two novice hurdles at Punchestown earlier this year, the Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old was the 1/16 favourite to beat two opponents who had little chance on ratings.
Ruby Walsh kept things simple as Un De Sceaux galloped straight into the lead and it was clear heading down the back straight his nearest pursuer Rory O'Moore was struggling to keep up. The market leader turned for home with a long lead and was still pulling hard between the final two flights.
A slight mistake at the last was the only blemish on an otherwise faultless display as he passed the post still full of running and 29 lengths clear.
Rory O'Moore came home 35 lengths ahead of the only other runner, Our Ollie.
"He wears his heart on his sleeve, so tactics are never going to be an issue with him -- he just jumps out and goes," said Walsh.
"He handles real soft ground -- the softer the better really, I suppose. He can go very fast for very long. However fast the others wanted to go, I'd have been going faster.
"He has to go on and take on better horses, but the dream is alive -- there's no doubt about that."
Paddy Power left Un De Sceaux unchanged at 25/1 for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Mullins said: "That didn't tell us anything we didn't already know. He has a fair engine and he'll go up in grade now.
"I was waiting to run him in this race all season rather than taking on Grade One horses. There was one other race for him in England three weeks ago but he wasn't ready enough for it.
"We'll go anywhere with him if we find the right race, but I don't want to take on the Grade One horses yet. We'll find out more about him on his next run, but he'll be entered for the Champion Hurdle before then."
There was a dramatic outcome to the Maiden Hurdle as the favourite Urano (11/8) came down before the final hurdle when coming to deliver his challenge.
The French-bred appeared to clip the heels of Oscar Fiain, who was beaten on the run-in by the Davy Russell partnered second favourite Thunder And Roses.
John Clifford saddled Chapel Garden to win the Flat Race, which was marred by the Willie Mullins-trained favourite Tile Lady breaking a leg with a circuit to go.
Up the straight, Tony Mullins' Fearachain was shaping all over a winner but Chapel Garden, a first-time-out son of Heron Island, found most to triumph by a length and a quarter.