Quito rolls back the years at Thurles
QUITO De La Roque (12-1) gave Colm Murphy something to look forward to for the rest of the season after bouncing back to winning ways in the Matty Ryan Memorial Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles.
One of the best novice chasers in training in the 2010-11 season, when he won at Aintree and Punchestown, his career had seemingly been on a downward slope since beating Sizing Europe at Down Royal in November 2011.
Dropped back in trip to two and a half miles, Paul Townend made plenty of use of his stamina and the nine-year-old raced with his old enthusiasm in the testing ground.
The bang-in-form Roi Du Mee gave chase from some way out but Murphy's charge jumped soundly in the straight to run out a six-and-a-half-length winner.
Days Hotel travelled well stepped up in trip until a jolting mistake at the third-last put paid to his chance.
Murphy's Voler La Vedette was retired earlier this week so the win came as a nice boost to the yard.
Quito De La Roque had his Gold Cup price halved to 50-1, but the John Smith's Grand National could be his aim.
Murphy said: "He's had his fair share of niggly problems. They were nothing major but they had us stopping and starting with him.
"He ran well up north (Down Royal) in the James Nicholson Chase but then things didn't happen for him.
"At Aintree things happened too quick for him so it's nice to be back on track.
"He's entered everywhere but he doesn't have too many options and I'll see what the lads say.
"The Hennessy and the Gold Cup are there for him and maybe he'll be a National horse.
"Time will tell and we'll dream on for a while."
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh endured something of a mixed afternoon as they had two winners, but two expensive fallers.
Mikael D'Haguenet, who himself has not enjoyed much luck over fences, enjoyed a confidence-booster in the WT O´Grady Memorial EBF Novice Chase.
The Mullins-trained 1-2 favourite was not hard pressed in winning by two lengths.
His success came just half an hour after Djakadam came down at the last with the race in the bag.
Mullins said: "Phew, there was better luck there.
"We'll try and keep him to that sort of trip now (two and a half miles).
"The Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse at Easter is a likely target.
"He'll be entered for all those races at Cheltenham but whether or not he goes is another day's work.
"He is a course winner at Cheltenham so we might have a run before then to make up our minds."
Stablemate Ballycasey (4-6 favourite) later entered the picture for the Cheltenham Festival with an impressive performance in the INH Stallion Owners EBF Novice Hurdle.
"He's progressing lovely. I'm happy he handled the ground as I thought it might be too soft," said Mullins.
"I don't know if he'll run again between now and Cheltenham.
"He'll be entered in the Albert Bartlett and the Neptune and he's the type of horse that would prefer better ground."
Mullins' Tarla looked beaten when she came down in the Fame And Glory & Sans Frontieres Coolmore National Hunt Sires EBF Fund Mares Novice Chase, in which Noras Fancy was a 14-1 winner.
Successful trainer Jimmy Mangan said: "She's a course winner and that was a big help. Soft ground is the key to her.
"She'll stick to those mares' races.
"I'm delighted for Michael (Dixon, owner). Everyone knows the horse is named after his wife and she died over a month ago.
"She's looking after us from above."