PUNCHESTOWN'S main contest yesterday featured a disappointing field of just three runners but included the return to competitive action of Forpadydeplasterer who failed to land a blow and was a well beaten second for Tom Cooper and Barry Geraghty.
The nine-year-old was last in competitive action back in January in the rescheduled King George but wasn't himself on that occasion and had to settle for second best for the 12th time in his 19 race career.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Roi Du Mee and outsider Jadanli looked out of their depth going into the race, but the winner lobbed away in front under Davy Russell and had few anxious moments on the way to a 16-length success.
Elliott was on route to Cheltenham where he has runners today, but his assistant Ian 'Busty' Ammond did suggest that Down Royal for the JNWine.Com Champion Chase next month could be an option. Tom Cooper didn't rule out that race but admitted: "My feeling is that he wants good ground and a drop back in trip.
"But Barry said that he couldn't blame the trip today as he just never felt right. He was just rusty as that was his first competitive race in a year. Kempton wasn't a race at all -- he wasn't right."
Cooper had a reason to celebrate prior to Forpadydeplaster's run as Lucky William won the other Grade Three on the card the Buck House Novice Chase.
The one time frustrating sort, Lucky William proved his bit of class by winning easily in the hands of the trainers son, Bryan.
Classy hurdlers Shrinrock Paddy and Rathlin never got into the race on what was their chasing debuts, and Cooper said: "We always thought he was a good horse.
"He is back on track now and he winged fences and won with loads in the tank. He is versatile with trip and ground and he has matured physically and mentally."
Jessica Harrington's Steps To Freedom put his relative inexperience to the side as he continued on the upgrade when winning the Ryan's Cleaning Events Specialists Hurdle and further enhanced his Cheltenham Festival claims.
Two wins from two starts over hurdles for the five-year-old see him prominent in the betting for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in March and Harrington was clearly delighted with the success.
"Robert said he went on the ground no problem so that opens up a few more options and we will look at the Royal Bond next," she said.
"In fact Robert was furious he got there too soon but when he made the mistake at the second he thought it would knock the stuffing out of him.
"You could excuse that fumble at that hurdle against those horses with more experience."