DAVY Russell went another step closer to retaining the Irish jump jockeys' championship when he steered Rye Martini to victory in the Stephens Green Hibernian Club Hurdle at Punchestown.
Russell made smooth progress on the Colm Murphy-trained gelding, owned by Gigginstown House Stud, to lead after the second last.
Rye Martini (11-1) got first run on the 5-4 favourite Marito, ridden by his arch rival in the title race, Ruby Walsh, and it proved crucial as he had two lengths to spare at the line.
Murphy said: "It's a bonus to win here as chasing will be his game. I've no doubt that he'll stay three miles.
"He was bit keen the last day in Fairyhouse. Davy locked him away well today though and got him nicely settled."
Walsh got the better of Russell when Twinlight (8-1) made all the running in the Bibby Financial Services Handicap Chase.
The Willie Mullins-trained top weight was the class act and it showed as he gave 13lb and a length and a quarter beating to the Russell-partnered Far Away So Close.
Barneys Honour, the gambled-on 100-30 favourite, stayed on strongly from the last but had to settle for third place.
Mullins said: "We had been considering the two-mile Grade One race (Ryanair), but we felt that this would suit him better.
"It's possible that we could take him to France if we could find something for him there.
"The other option is that he probably has a hurdle mark that we can exploit. Two miles is his optimum trip, on soft ground.
"We used to think over hurdles that he wasn't the toughest in the world. Over fences though he's been a revelation."
Walsh said: "The ground is very testing but he travelled well and jumped well and it was a good performance for a novice under top-weight."
Big Shu followed up his Cheltenham cross-country success when bravely holding on to lift the Avon Ri Corporate & Leisure Resort Chase for the La Touche Cup over the banks course.
Barry Cash kicked on some way out on Peter Maher's eight-year-old and was soon a long way clear. However, Big Shu got very tired and clambered over the final fence.
The pack closed in but the 9-2 co-favourite plugged on gamely to win by a length and a quarter from Another Jewel with the always prominent Bostons Angel third.
Maher said: "He's a brilliant horse because he was very tired. It's very testing out there.
"He's a very honest horse, he's top notch and it's great for the small man like me."
Maher dedicated the victory to top amateur rider J T McNamara, who was paralysed in a fall at Cheltenham last month.
"I want to thank J T McNamara and dedicate that win to him because he started that horse off for me over fences. He was second and fifth in point-to-points and he got that horse jumping," said the County Kildare trainer.
Followmeuptocarlow curled up on the run-in allowing 9-2 favourite Acapulco to snatch the spoils in the dying strides of the Naas Court Hotel And Il Fico Restaurant Handicap Hurdle.
The leader appeared to lose his action and he stopped to a walk as Barry Geraghty forced the Edward O'Grady-trained gelding to win by three-quarters of a length. Rogue Angel past Followmeuptocarlow to take second spot.
O'Grady said of the winner: "I thought he was sure to win at the second-last and then even Barry was convinced he was beaten at the last.
"He'll probably go chasing but I'll have to talk to the owner. Barry thinks he has the scope for it but I'd say he'll (the horse) put his feet up for a week or two after that!
"His hurdling was so much more professional today."
Arvika Ligeonniere gave Mullins and Walsh another winner when bouncing back to form in the Ryanair Novice Chase.
The eight-year-old had failed to complete the course on his last two starts after winning two Grade Ones earlier in the campaign.
The 7-2 favourite was always prominent as Special Tiara took them along before taking the lead before the third-last and going on to score by nine and a half lengths from Oscars Well. Special Tiara was third.
Mullins said: "Soft ground and a right-handed track are two important ingredients for him, and two miles is probably his trip.
"Ruby got him to settle today. He's over 17 hands and must be the biggest horse in our yard.
"He's just so strong, he's improving and we will probably stay at home with him next season."
Mullins and Walsh made it four on the day when Upsie got the better of stablemate Twigline after the last in the Orchid Transport Mares Novice Hurdle.
For a few strides it looked like going either way, but in the end the 9-10 favourite asserted by a length and a half from Paul Townend's mount.
Mullins said: "She's got a good engine but we'll have to brush up her jumping.
"When she learns how to jump she'll be a fair mare.
"She got into a lot of trouble at Naas and did well to win.
"Nothing really went right for her in Naas but she still won.
"Her homework is great."
And it was five for Mullins when his son Patrick took the Kildare Post INH Flat Race on 9-4 favourite Turnandgo.