Very Wood books himself a return ticket to Cheltenham
Very Wood booked his ticket for a return visit to Cheltenham when hitting form with victory in the Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan.
Noel Meade had nursed Very Wood back to health after the six-year-old was pulled up on his previous two starts and his hard work was rewarded with a Grade Two success. The 13/2 chance had pleased connections in a piece of work that persuaded Bryan Cooper, retained jockey to owners Gigginstown House Stud, to choose him over Thunder And Roses.
His judgment proved right as last year's Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle winner got the better of Noble Emperor by four-and-a-half lengths after the duo dominated the three-mile race.
"I don't know what was wrong with him. He can be a bit funny at home, but he has started looking better recently and felt better," said Meade. "He worked well on the flat at Punchestown with Apache Stronghold and Texas Jack, and that has been nicely boosted since.
"He proved himself last year and three miles isn't really a problem - he ran up the hill at Cheltenham like he was going round the first time when he won the Albert Bartlett. That was quite incredible, so stamina is his forte. I think he'll jump better off better ground."
The National Hunt Chase would be Cooper's choice for the horse and the jockey said: "For once I picked the right one. I picked him because he did a nice piece of work and thank God it paid off.
"I never thought we were going quick, but he got into a lovely rhythm and was jumping great. He'd be some ride in the four-miler if he went that way."
RaceBets make Very Wood 11/1 (from 16s) for the National Hunt Chase and 16/1 (from 40s) for the RSA Chase.
Meade's charge was giving Gigginstown and Cooper a Grade Two double following the victory of Dedigout from Tony Martin's stable in the Ladbrokes Ireland Boyne Hurdle.
Dedigout (6/4 favourite) followed up his Galmoy Hurdle success when winning a dramatic race after Briar Hill fell at the last when looking a danger.
Martin said: "He jumped well coming back to this trip. He always had the pace and the ground helped his stamina come into play. Ruby was a bit unlucky and who knows what would have happened if he'd stood up, I thought we had a little left and it would have been interesting to see."
Dedigout was cut to 20/1 from 25/1 for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham with Paddy Power, who cut Briar Hill to 16/1 from 25/1. Boylesports left Dedigout unchanged at 20/1.
Gigginstown completed a hat-trick when Gordon Elliott's Cogryhill (4/1), under Nina Carberry, defeated the owners' first string Arkwrisht in the Flower Hill (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
Outsider of four Rawnaq gave trainer Matthew Smith his biggest success when he caused a 25/1 upset in the Flyingbolt Novice Chase. Matthew Smith's eight-year-old got the better of 4/9 hotpot Gilgamboa to score by a length and three-quarters under Andrew Lynch.
Smith said: "I was more hopeful than confident, and it's a bit of a surprise beating the favourite. A lot of hard work has gone into this horse since Cork. He had a few issues but we've sorted them out. He likes it around here and has won three times now. Andrew said it was right to run him over this trip on that ground but on better ground he'd stay three miles."
Lynch was completing a double after giving trainer Michael O'Hare his first winner since July 2013 when steering Mike McCann (15/8) to victory in the Charlie Lowry Memorial Maiden Hurdle.
Forever Gold (9/2) could return to Navan next month after landing an 11-length victory under Davy Russell in the Dunsany Handicap Hurdle for trainer Edward Cawley.
Elsewhere, champion amateur Derek O'Connor recorded 1,000 wins in point-to-points when successful at Cragmore in Co Limerick. O'Connor achieved the landmark with a 15-length victory in the Brightwells Bloodstock 4YO Geldings Maiden on the Gigginstown House Stud-owned Death Duty for one of his principal supporters, Pat Doyle.
The Co Galway rider had taken his tally to 999 on Muirhead at Kirkistown in Northern Ireland on Saturday. O'Connor was presented with a bottle of champagne by land owner and long-term ally John Costello.
Gigginstown's racing manager Eddie O'Leary said: "Derek is a legend in his own game, and I'm thrilled we were able to give him his 1,000th winner. He's a nice horse. Derek's only 3,300 odd more to go to catch Tony McCoy!"