After a mixed bag at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, Willie Mullins was again back in the winner's enclosure at Naas yesterday when his apparent second string, Gagewell Flyer, claimed the Slaney Novice Hurdle.
The champion trainer was responsible for the favourite Bishopsfurze for the 2m4f contest but he was almost brought to a standstill by the faller Si C'etait Vrai at the fourth last and from then there was only one winner as the Emmett Mullins-ridden Gagewell Flyer held on for a comfortable success.
"This horse (Gagewell Flyer) is improving all the time and it would look like he will be going for the Neptune Investments Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham or the Albert Bartlett, I would have no problem stepping him up to three miles," said Mullins.
Mullins' odds-on favourite Cadspeed failed to reward his supporters in the novice chase as Uncle Tom Cobley and Prince Erik battled it out up the tough climb following the final fence and it was the Conor O'Dwyer-trained Uncle Tom Cobley who ran out a worthy winner.
Nicky O'Shea was doing the steering on the 9/2 shot owned by Gigginstown House Stud and having always been prominent, he battled on well up the hill to open his account over the larger obstacles.
"I was just finding it hard to win a beginners' with him so that's why I came here and it really suited him, a good galloping track and soft ground," the winning trainer said.
"He jumped super today and I will try and find a winners of one now."
Dessie Hughes and Bryan Cooper teamed up to win the opener and it was a 1-2 for the trainer as White Star Line dug deep to see off his stable companion Dun Masc.
Only a neck separated the two as the 5/4 favourite obliged to get punters off to a good start.
That would be the last winning favourite of the day, however, on what has been a tough start to 2011 for punters.
The Noel Meade-trained Willie John took the concluding bumper to narrowly deny the Willie Mullins-trained favourite Tusa Eire.