REBEL FITZ claimed his first Grade One when taking the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse yesterday on the opening day of the Boylesports Irish Grand National meeting.
Mick Winters' stable star divided opinion as to whether or not he was a fortuitous winner or not as the Willie Mullins-trained Ballycasey fell at the second last when still holding every chance having made all the running in the 2m4f contest.
Despite being pushed along by Barry Geraghty, Rebel Fitz was beginning to stay on readily at this stage and when Ballycasey exited and Rebel Fitz skipped by him, the nine-year-old went to dismiss the challenge of Bright New Dawn who was the only other finisher.
Rebel Fitz had 15-lengths to spare crossing the line and Geraghty, who was winning the race for the first time, suggested he was always confident on closing on Ballycasey.
Winters' former Galway Hurdle winner was winning over fences for the sixth time and could be set to carry top weight in the Galway Plate later on in the summer as the Cork-based trainer plots a route for Rebel Fitz.
"The horses have not been flying for the last six months and I'd say there is more left in him. He's nine now and today was the day I felt he was ready for it (Grade One) and we'll look at going to Tipperary with him now in a few weeks," Winters said.
Regarding Galway, Winters added: "The Galway Plate is a race we'll have to look for – we know he likes the track and unless we find another race for him, maybe a flat race or something, I'd say he'll probably go for the Galway Plate."
The Mullins team had some consolation with the triumph of Daneking (6/1) in the Boylesports Easter Festival Handicap Hurdle.
The lightly-raced five-year-old, owned by Rich Ricci, led after jumping the second-last flight to seal victory by three lengths under Paul Townend. "The ground was a big help, and we'll look at the big two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle at Punchestown," said Mullins.
Lots Of Memories (14/1) turned the INH Stallion Owners EBF Novice Handicap Hurdle Series Final into a procession as he spreadeagled his field.
A Grade Three scorer at Cork in November, the Paul Fahey-trained seven-year-old looked a cut above the opposition as he won easily in the hands of 5lb claimer Shane Butler.
Leading after three out, Lots Of Memories went further and further away to strike by six-and- a-half lengths despite being eased down close home.
The winning trainer indicated a significant rise in grade now awaits the impressive winner.
Fahey said: "We put him away to give him a crack at a decent handicap. He'll go for the Grade One three-mile novice (Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle) at Punchestown now."
The Noel Meade-trained Road To Riches (2/1) ran his rivals into the ground when making all the running in the Coolmore Stud Novice Chase. Paul Carberry switched to the Gigginstown House Stud runner after stablemate Ned Buntline was withdrawn and dictated affairs on the seven-year-old to win by three-and-three-quarter lengths.
Dessie Hughes' Emperor Of Exmoor (4/1) got off the mark in Irish Field Maiden Hurdle after three placed efforts when holding Tawseef by a length under Mark Enright.
David Splaine brought the Adrian McGuinness-trained Pivot Bridge with a smooth run to spring a 25/1 surprise in the Gleeson Butchers Novice Handicap Hurdle to win by three lengths from Desertmore Stream.
Moon Racer was a 50/1 stunner for owner-trainer Michael Ronayne in the Tattersalls Ireland George Mernagh Memorial Sales Bumper.