'Jazz' and Russell make most of lacklustre Faugheen's off day
Mick Jazz was a shock winner of the Ryanair Hurdle as favourite Faugheen suffered just the second defeat of his career after being pulled up at Leopardstown.
Having looked as good as ever when making a successful return from a near two-year absence in last month's Morgiana Hurdle, the 2015 Champion Hurdle hero was unsurprisingly a warm order to stretch his Grade One tally to nine as the 2/11 favourite.
The Willie Mullins-trained superstar soon adopted his customary pacesetting role, but it was clear heading out on to the second circuit it might not be as straightforward as many expected, with his stablemate Cilaos Emery taking over the lead.
The nine-year-old dropped to the rear of the five-runner field on the run to the second-last flight and Paul Townend swiftly took him out of the race.
His shock exit left Cilaos Emery in front ahead of Mick Jazz (14/1), but it was Gordon Elliott's charge which found most from the final flight to claim a surprise victory under Davy Russell.
Russell said: "I was expecting a big run from Mick Jazz because he ran such a lovely race in Fairyhouse (fifth in Hatton's Grace Hurdle) when he didn't stay after I travelled well into the straight.
"I couldn't believe Paul (Townend) just wasn't travelling with the same zest down the back and then this lad jumped on the bridle.
"He had to be tough to pass Cilaos Emery but, to be fair, he landed at the back of the last and he just wanted it a bit more. He's a tough horse."
Elliott said: "Obviously Faugheen looked to be a certainty, but there is no such thing as a certainty in horse racing. I just hope he's OK.
"It was Mick Jazz's day. We went to Cheltenham last year and George Mahoney, who owns a half share with me, flew over from America with all his family for the County Hurdle and he was lame on the morning of the race.
"Today was his day in the sun. The plan was to go to America next year for all those jump races, but we'll enjoy today and see what happens.
"He'll have to have an entry now in the Champion Hurdle because you never know, but we'll enjoy today first."
Shattered Love led home Jury Duty to provide Elliott with a one-two in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase.
Ridden by Mark Walsh, the 10/1 shot was always well to the fore and had just taken over the lead when Monalee suffered a crashing fall in the back straight, bringing down Rathvinden and also badly hampering Dinaria Des Obeaux.
That dramatic incident left Shattered Love clear of Thebarrowman, Jury Duty and Bon Papa and in the end it was the stablemates which fought out the finish.
Jury Duty did his best to bridge the gap in the straight, but in receipt of 7lb, Shattered Love did not yield and kept up the gallop to claim top honours.
Let's Dance successfully defended her crown with a battling performance in the Willis Towers Watson Mares Hurdle.
The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old secured this Grade Three prize 12 months ago before going on to claim Cheltenham Festival glory in the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle.
She left Ruby Walsh with a broken leg when falling on her return to action at Punchestown last month, but bounced back here in the hands of Paul Townend.
It was not easy viewing for her supporters, with Let's Dance initially appearing reluctant to jump off and she did not travel with much zest for the first half of the two-and-a-half-mile contest.
However, she moved into contention before the home turn and galloped all the way to the line to score by eight lengths.
The front-running Forge Meadow was a clear second and Dawn Shadow finished strongly to deny British challenger Lady Buttons third place.
Mullins signed off the meeting on a high courtesy of Minella Encore's victory in the Guinness Flat Race.
Patrick Mullins dictated terms to suit himself on the 3/1 chance, and kept enough up his sleeve for the business end to repel The Gunner Murphy by a length and three-quarters.
The winning jockey said: "I told Willie beforehand, 'Don't worry, we'll win the bumper, everything is going to be OK'. I don't know if it quite makes up for earlier, but it's great."
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