Relegate back in winning groove for Ruby
Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner Relegate was made to work hard in getting off the mark over timber at the second time of asking in yesterday's mares' maiden hurdle at Naas.
Willie Mullins' mare was hampered when narrowly beaten on her hurdling debut at Punchestown last month. Three came clear of the big field on this occasion, with Caravation and Barrington Court keeping Relegate and Ruby Walsh company in the straight.
Relegate kicked the final two hurdles out of the ground, but her guts and class enabled her to battle back bravely for a narrow victory.
The 4/5 favourite's winning margin was half a length from Caravation second, with Barrington Court two-and-a-half lengths away in third.
"That was good and I thought Ruby was very good on her," said Mullins. "She didn't help him much over the last two. She was probably just going a bit too fast and I'd imagine from now on we'll go way out in trip with her.
"Unless there was something at two-and-a-quarter (miles), I'd be looking at two-and-a-half. To win a two-mile hurdle was good. I think she'll jump a lot better when she goes out in trip.
"I'd be looking for mares' races or novice races, I doubt she'd come back here for the Grade One. I'll just step her up the ladder quietly."
Champion jockey challenger Rachael Blackmore closed the gap on leader Paul Townend to two (69-67) after teaming with Henry de Bromhead for a 74/1 Naas double.
First up for the pair was the victory of Embrun Mitja (14/1) in the opening maiden hurdle when Blackmore showed her talents by edging out the Townend-ridden Face The Facts (4/5 favourite) by a half-length.
The brace was completed by another victory over a Townend-ridden market leader Duc Des Genievres (1/1) which was forced to play second fiddle to A Plus Tard (4/1) in the beginners' chase over two miles, three furlongs.
The pair settled down for a battle from the second last, but a blemish from the favourite at the last handed the initiative to Blackmore's mount which prevailed by three lengths.