Elliott secures winning verdict in National Trial
Dounikos gained his first win in more than a year to give Gordon Elliott back-to-back victories in the BoyleSports Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Punchestown.
Settled just off the pace by Davy Russell for much of the extended three-and-a-half-mile contest, the 12/1 shot moved into contention when joining long-time leader Wishmoor and stablemate General Principle to make it a line of three at the last.
Meeting the obstacle on a good stride, Dounikos quickened away up the run-in before prevailing by four-and-a-half lengths from Wishmoor, with last year's Irish Grand National winner General Principle a further half-length adrift in third to make it a clean sweep for owners Gigginstown House Stud.
Elliott, who won the race last year with Folsom Blue, said: "He went well in the Paddy Power at Christmas for a long time, but he was never happy in the Thyestes Chase and ended up falling at the second last.
"For a big horse, he probably likes a bit of good ground. He'll be an English or Irish National horse.
Sinoria put her assured stamina to good use when continuing her upward curve with a game success in the Novice Hurdle.
Having scored over two-and-a-half miles at Down Royal on her previous start, the Henry de Bromhead-trained six-year-old took a drop back in trip in her stride when gaining some valuable black type in the Listed prize.
Hitting the front over the second last, the 6/1 shot found plenty to get the better of a battle from the back of the final flight with favourite Chosen Mate, before going on to score by three-quarters of a length.
De Bromhead said: "She's really tough and it was a great move by Rachael (Blackmore) at the second last. She said she was very brave coming down to the last with the other horse in on top of her. We'll have to consider the Mares' Novice at Cheltenham now."
All roads lead back to the Cheltenham Festival for veteran Josies Orders (5/4) after he went one better than 12 months ago in the PP Hogan Memorial Cross Country Chase.
Enda Bolger's 11-year-old, which found stablemate Auvergnat too strong in the three-mile-one-furlong contest last year, beat Hurricane Darwin by two lengths under Mark Walsh to claim the tenth victory of his career.
Riders Onthe Storm (2/1) could also be bound for the Festival after Tom Taaffe's charge made the most of a drop from Grade One company to claim the Novice Chase in the hands of Bryan Cooper.