Mullins hits heights aboard Benbulben
Danny Mullins could not have wished for a better start in his new job as retained rider for leading owner Barry Connell as Mount Benbulben cruised to victory in the Bet On Your Mobile With boylesports.com Chase at Thurles.
Gordon Elliott's charge has always been highly regarded, but had proved somewhat disappointing on his switch to the larger obstacles – that is until Mullins piloted the gelding for the first time.
Sent off the 11/4 second favourite, Mount Benbulben looked better suited to racing right-handed and, despite being up against some far more experienced rivals, his class shone through.
He jumped to the front at the final fence on the back straight and was still full of running approaching the last, where Lastoftheleaders tried to challenge, but could get no closer than 11 lengths. The Willie Mullins-trained favourite Lambro was disappointing and never travelled.
Elliott said: "We've always known that he's got a fair engine and it was just a matter of putting it together.
"I'd say going right-handed and the ground not being so bad was a help. We'll stay going right-handed now. He'll go for the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse and probably on to Punchestown."
Bright New Dawn cashed in on Venture Capital's final-flight fall in the boylesports.com Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle.
A fine second to Champagne Fever in the Grade One Deloitte Novice Hurdle on his last start, Bright New Dawn was all the rage in the market, going off the 6/4 favourite.
Davy Russell (pictured) took up the running on Dessie Hughes' charge on leaving the back straight, but was faced with the challenge of Touch The Eden, Jennies Jewel, Venture Capital and Mala Beach.
Philip Fenton's Venture Capital nosed in front on the run to the last, but suffered a fall, which unfortunately proved fatal, allowing Bright New Dawn to come home three lengths clear of Mala Beach, with Jennies Jewel third. Winning trainer Hughes felt the track didn't play to Bright New Dawn's strengths, before adding: "He's a real chaser in the making. We're minding him this year, so he won't be going to Cheltenham. He'll go to Fairyhouse instead."
Having also struck in the opener aboard Carrig Millie, Russell brought home a 26/1 treble when the Mullins-trained Raise Hell (15/8 joint-favourite) won the Killinan Maiden Hurdle.
Hughes, meanwhile, completed a double when Bryan Coopeter guided the well-backed Caheronaun (4/1) to a gutsy success in the three-mile beginners' chase.
Cooper sent his mount to the front at the fourth fence after favourite He's A Delight blundered and was pulled up. Caheronaun was challenged up the straight by The Bosses Cousin and then Pigeon Creek, but both fell separately and Cooper was able to ease clear on the run-in.
All-conquering Mullins also completed a double (17/1) when son Patrick eased Daisy's Gift clear of the field in the mares' bumper.