Townend shows the way at Ballinrobe
While Ruby Walsh is away, Paul Townend continues to make hay and did so again with another winner for the Willie Mullins' string at Ballinrobe last night.
As the champion national hunt jockey made the long journey back from his Grand National-winning exploits in Australia, his deputy at the Closutton yard showed his ability with an assured steer on Ciandarragh in the opening mares maiden hurdle.
Despite the fact that the Kilbeggan bumper winner drifted in the market, Townend showed supreme confidence in Ciandarragh as he kept her just off the pace set by Herecomesthewolf.
The Cork rider sent the seven-year-old to the front soon after jumping the third last and the pair quickened four lengths clear on the home turn to comfortably hold off the challenge of 5/2 fellow joint favourite Brogine.
Feature event on the card was the EPS Handicap Hurdle which produced drama aplenty as a last-flight fall from Jesmond Lodge allowed Black Label to take the valuable prize under promising Wexford conditional rider Jonathan Moore.
Jesmond Lodge made a bold bid to make all the running and was still a couple of lengths up approaching the last, although Adrian McGuinness' charge was beginning to put pressure on the leader.
A potentially interesting finale went astray when John Ryan's filly got it all wrong at the last and the 8/1 chance strolled home to record a 20-length verdict over 9/4 favourite Punch Bag.
The Mervyn Torrens-trained outsider Konig Hall caused a major surprise on his jumping debut when taking the Healy Mac's At Breaffy House (C & G) Maiden Hurdle.
A four-time winner on the Flat in Germany, the son of Halling didn't figure on the level at Leopardstown recently but there appeared to be no fluke about this 20/1 success.
Castelo Branco led them into the home straight but Mark Enright's mount wasn't for catching after seizing the initiative coming down to the final flight and the gelding went on to win by a length and a half.
Michael Winters made a visit to the winner's enclosure after Winter Breeze stayed on strongly to take the Burleigh Accountancy Maiden Hurdle by six lengths in the hands of Jonathan Burke, while Blackandambervic (13/2) made all the running to beat Crystal Earth by just over a length in the Broderick's Electrical Handicap Hurdle.
Aidan O'Brien and daughter Sarah O'Brien have been carrying all before them in bumpers of late and the pair struck again with All the Answers (13/8) in the finale.