PHILIP Fenton's string are in rude health and for the second successive Sunday, the Tipperary trainer struck with one of his stable stars as Dunguib cruised to victory in the Dunboyne Hurdle at Navan.
Almost three years to the day since his last victory, the injury-plagued gelding strode to an impressive success in the Ladbrokes-sponsored Grade Two contest.
Fenton has had to use all his training mastery to get the former Champion Bumper winner back to the track, and the 11-year-old showed he retained plenty of ability when third on his comeback at Naas last month. Dunguib had clearly come forward from that outing, moving powerfully towards the rear of the four-runner field before sweeping to the front approaching the straight.
Brian O'Connell barely had to move a muscle on the 11/4 second favourite as he coasted six lengths clear of market leader Zaidpour, which was never really travelling for Ruby Walsh.
"That was lovely, it was a grand performance," Fenton said. "He's not getting any younger, but he looked his old self. We were fairly confident we might be good enough. He was getting a little bit tired from the last, but we'd be hoping he'd improve from it.
"There's a good chance he'll go (to Cheltenham). We'll see what the handicapper does, we could look at the County Hurdle or the Coral Cup, he got the trip (2m 5f) well enough today."
The Dessie Hughes-trained Bright New Dawn claimed top honours in the Flyingbolt Novice Chase under Bryan Cooper. Mallowney bowled along for most of the contest and jumped well in the hands of Andrew McNamara.
In what effectively turned into a match, the two principals jumped two out more or less together, but Bright New Dawn got the better of the argument going to the last and asserted on the run-in to record a clear-cut triumph.
"I'm pleased with that – and he battled when he needed to," Hughes said of the 5/4 favourite. "I don't know about Cheltenham, he looks an ideal horse for the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse and maybe Punchestown after that."
Already a leading candidate for Cheltenham's four-miler, Foxrock continued his progression in the Ten Up Novice Chase. Grade Two winner at Naas last month, the Ted Walsh-trained gelding was striking again at that level with a half-length success from My Murphy, although he might have had a little more in hand than the official margin.
For much of the three-mile journey, the Barry Connell-owned six-year-old had shared pole position with Clar Na Mionn and Civena.
Foxrock made a slight mistake four out, but jockey Danny Mullins soon had him on an even keel and jumped to the front at the third last. Having fought off Clar Na Mionn on the run-in, the 4/6 favourite stayed on strongly to triumph.
"If he improves over the summer, he will be a nice three-miler for next season, they are scarce on the ground," said Walsh. "He stays, he jumps and he handles soft ground."
Asked about running in the four-miler at Cheltenham, Walsh said: "We'll see how he is in three weeks, that's time enough to make our minds up. That's where Barry would like to go with him."
It was a double for Mullins in the Connell colours after he took the Dunsany Handicap Hurdle aboard the Denis Hogan-trained Inis Meain, which edged out Kostar by a half-length.
The Sammy Wilson-trained Court Jester (100/30 favourite) landed an overdue second success in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle in the hands of Jody McGarvey.
Willie Mullins and Walsh were on the mark with Daneking (4/5 favourite) in the maiden hurdle, but the champion trainer suffered an odds-on reverse when Quevega's full-brother Vivega could manage only third in the bumper, won by Charlie Swan's Ballagh (12/1).