Hidden Cyclone toughs it out to take spoils in Fortia Chase
Experienced campaigner Hidden Cyclone kept on dourly to grind out victory in thetote.com Fortria Chase at Navan.
John 'Shark' Hanlon's stable star jumped into the lead after Flemenstar ploughed through the third-last. Hidden Cyclone (3/1) didn't jump the last too well, but he stuck to his task for Brian Hayes to score by six-and-a-half lengths and Hanlon (right) indicated afterwards that he would be aimed next at Punchestown's Durkan Chase.
Days Hotel was runner-up for a second successive year, with Flemenstar third and Special Tiara a well-beaten last of the four finishers. Last year's winner Twinlight was pulled up, while Bright New Dawn fell at the third.
Hayes, who lost his claim just a few months ago, was completing a quick double for Hidden Cyclone's owners, the Mee family, having struck on the John Kiely-trained Ancient Sands (7/1) in the two-mile handicap hurdle.
Arctic Fire knuckled down tenaciously to claim Grade Two honours at the expense of a slightly unlucky Monksland in the Lismullen Hurdle.
Willie Mullins' charge was three lengths down coming to the last but took his chance after the Noel Meade-trained Monksland got in too close.
Ruby Walsh asked Arctic Fire for a big effort on the run-in and the 4/6 favourite responded in determined fashion to gun down the leader.
Monksland had shared pacemaking duties with Taglietelle before pushing on from two out, making what looked a winning move. However, the injury-prone gelding was punished for the final-flight error as Arctic Fire won for the first time since landing a Punchestown novice event in May 2014.
He has run many big races in defeat since then, though, notably behind exalted stablemates Faugheen and Hurricane Fly. "He was gutsy and blew up. Hopefully we can get him back to the form he was in last year," said Mullins, who indicated that his charge could have his next run at Newcastle later this month.
Three Stars caused a surprise when running out a ready winner of the 'For Auction' Novice Hurdle. Henry de Bromhead's five-year-old was sent off at odds of 12/1 in the field of five for the Grade Three after being beaten in his last two starts, but there looked to be no fluke about the victory. After Billbushay fell away after leading after the fourth-last, it looked like Thomas Hobson was coming with a winning run.
However, Johnny Burke pounced on Three Stars and the race was over in a matter of strides as he sped to victory by over two lengths. Tycoon Prince, the 4/6 favourite, was only third.
De Bromhead said: "I thought that he would struggle on the ground. We said that we would hold on to him a bit more and he stayed at it well. He's obviously a nice horse."
Former smart hurdler Kitten Rock made a pleasing start to his fencing career with victory in the beginners' chase.
Sixth in the Champion Hurdle on his last race over hurdles, Edward O'Grady's five-year-old was given a decent test by Sizing Titanium, but his class shone through.
The pair had the two-mile heat between them over the last three fences, but Barry Geraghty always seemed pretty confident on Kitten Rock and the 4/6 favourite pulled clear on the run-in to score cosily by a length and a quarter.
"I'm greatly relieved as he's not done one piece of work," said O'Grady. "He's so much heavier this year, and the ground has not been soft enough to do anything. I was on tenterhooks.
"Hopefully that is the start of a very good campaign. There is another race for him back here in four weeks' time."