LAST INSTALMENT returned from 704 days off the track to put up a brave performance in the Kinloch Brae at Thurles yesterday in finishing third as Texas Jack claimed the Grade Two for Noel Meade and Paul Carberry.
Much of the attention was on the Philip Fenton-trained nine-year-old, who jumped terrifically in the main and just got done late on for third by Baily Green and finished just a length and a quarter off the winner.
Texas Jack, in typical Carberry fashion, travelled strongly into the straight and joined Last Instalment and Baily Green to jump the last upsides before staying on best of the trio to land the feature race of the afternoon.
Meade said: "I was annoyed at myself for not running in the John Durkan the way it panned out and the horse wasn't right at Christmas, but he has freshened up well.
"I would say that is his trip and I would imagine we will keep him at home," Meade added.
Fenton was naturally delighted with the run from Last Instalment and hopes to go for the Irish Hennessy next with the horse, who was cut from 50/1 into 33/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup by Boylesports.
"He has run a terrific race I think," said Fenton.
"It was a lovely run and I couldn't but take positives from it. It was a lovely comeback. He travelled well, and maybe he was a little too buzzy early on and just blew up, so you'd be over the moon with the run and there should be a lot of improvement.
"We would like to think that we could turn up at the Hennessy. We will see how he is in the morning and if he's grand and hardy tomorrow and over the next 10-days or so if he is telling us he is ready to go to the Hennessy, I would imagine that is where we will go."
Nicky Henderson's first runner at Thurles ended with the narrowest of defeats as Une Artiste went down in a photo-finish to the Robert Tyner-trained Byerley Babe, who got the verdict by a nose in the Coolmore-sponsored Grade Two Mares' Novice Chase.
Ridden by Philip Enright and trained by Robert Tyner, it looked as though the impressive Limerick winner had been denied by Geraghty, but a quick call to the photo finish confirmed that Byerley Babe had got up to claim the €52,500 contest.
"She was good and she just drifted a bit on the run in and it probably would have been a bit snug only for that," Tyner said.
"She should improve for that and she has a lot of class, so she may well drop back in trip before she would be going up – travels very strongly."
Looking ahead, Tyner suggested that the Dawn Run Novice Chase at Limerick in March could be a future option.
The Willie Mullins-trained Clondaw Court maintained his unbeaten record when winning the WT O'Grady Novice Hurdle under Ruby Walsh in impressive manner, seeing off his nearest rival Horendus Hulabaloo by 18-lengths.
"That's him back to himself," Mullins said. "Ruby said he just made a mistake early at Leopardstown and that unsettled him but he wants a trip as he gallops all day.
"He will get an entry for all the novice races at Cheltenham but I would imagine it would be the Albert Bartlett at the moment. We have always thought a huge amount of him and he was our pick of the bumper horses last year but he didn't make the race."