Willie Mullins rules supreme as Yorkhill lights up gloomy Sandown
Under gloomy skies, persistent drizzle and on heavy ground, it was certainly not an afternoon for the faint-hearted at Sandown, but Yorkhill underlined his Cheltenham Festival credentials with a performance of the utmost class.
Willie Mullins could saddle the front two in the betting for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle after Yorkhill showed a slick gear change to land the Grade One 32Red Tolworth Novices' Hurdle in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
The six-year-old fully justified 4-9 favouritism in a race that is firmly established as the top two-mile novice hurdle in the first half of the season. Travelling supremely well to take it up between the last two flights, Yorkhill cantered to a two-and-a-quarter-length success from O O Seven.
Stablemate Min heads the Supreme market at 3-1 with Betfred, with Yorkhill clipped from to 8-1 from 10s. He is also 8-1 with the same firm for the Neptune, with another stablemate, Bellshill, their 5-1 favourite.
Mullins was delighted with the display, despite concerns over the heavy ground, and said: "It looked like he handled it! I was worried that, being by Presenting, he might not handle the ground, but he even surprised me with how well he did it.
"Ruby seemed to arrive in plenty of time. He arrived a little early with plenty in hand and I was wondering if he would run out of stamina.
"Andrew Tinkler (aboard O O Seven) was pressing from the bottom turn to make sure it was a staying contest and get our fellow off it (the bridle), but he just kept finding and I'm very pleased.
"I have no trouble with trip. I've always had the belief that he is fast enough and has plenty of pace. We know he stays three miles from winning his point-to-point and winning his maiden the last day.
"The Supreme Novices' Hurdle is certainly not out of the equation at this stage. Both he and Min will have another run before then, but we 'll see.
"The Deloitte (Leopardstown) is an option, but we will have to see what Bellshill does on at Naas on Sunday because I would like to bring him back to two miles as well and have a few options for that race.
"I think it takes a very good horse to win the Tolworth. The second is no slouch and they were all winners in the race, so I am going to take it at Grade One value, anyway."