'Dawn' breaks into Cheltenham picture
Connections of Dawn Shadow already have one eye on a trip to the Cheltenham Festival next March following an impressive victory at Thurles.
Dot Love's five-year-old came up against some high-class rivals in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Hurdle, not least the Willie Mullins-trained Karalee, which was the 4/7 favourite on her first start since finishing third behind Apple's Jade in the Mares Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.
However, while Karalee faltered into third place in the testing conditions, 6/1 shot Dawn Shadow powered clear under Rachael Blackmore to score by four-and-a-half lengths from Lesley Dawn.
Love's assistant Ciarán Murphy said: "She is a very nice mare and two miles is as short as she wants. To do that over two miles here, we're pleased with that.
"We have one target with her at Cheltenham next March, in the (Dawn Run) Mares' Novice Hurdle. We'll give her plenty experience before that and she won't run much after Christmas.
"There's a Grade Three at Leopardstown over Christmas and there's also a mares' novice here on December 17 over two miles, so either of those races would be the plan."
Another horse which could have Cheltenham aspirations is Real Steel after he made a successful Irish debut for Mullins and Paul Townend in the Cahir Maiden Hurdle.
The 8/13 favourite readily extended clear of Daly Tiger and is now a best-priced 20/1 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Festival in March.
Mullins said: "He jumped a bit big early on but once he got the hang of the Irish hurdles, he was slick.
"I thought two miles would be fine for him, but Paul said he'd like to go up in trip, so we'll see what happens."
The Mullins-trained Montalbano (11/10 favourite) was already beaten when falling at the final fence in the Killinan Beginners' Chase.
Victory in the two-and-a-quarter-mile contest went to Jessica Harrington's Jett (2/1) and Robbie Power.
The trainer said: "I'm delighted with him and the faster they were going the better he went. I'd like to go to Leopardstown with him as we've a chance of getting nicer ground."
Elsewhere, Lovely Job put up a gutsy display when defying top weight in the Handicap Chase at Taunton.
Fergal O'Brien's seven-year-old was up with the pace straight from flag-fall before Noel Fehily asked him to do the job on his own. The 5/4 favourite relished the task and pulled out more when challenged by Beau Du Brizais to score by a length-and-a-half.