Shaneshill stars in victory romp
Cheltenham Festival runner-up Shaneshill emphatically went one better in the Coolmore NH Sires Leading Light & Ocovango Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old was the 4-9 favourite, having chased home stable companion Douvan in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle last month, and travelled powerfully throughout in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
Having initially been dropped out, Walsh moved his mount closer to the speed with a circuit to run and it was clear from the home bend he had far more in the tank than his opponents.
The other Mullins runner, Outlander, emerged as a threat heading to the second flight from the finish, but an untidy leap saw Shaneshill open up a clear advantage and he never looked like being caught, coming home with 13 lengths in hand.
Mullins said: "I didn't think he'd go in the conditions as it's very tacky and soft, but he handled it very well. He'll go to Punchestown and, on that run, it looks like he'll stay at that trip. He'll go chasing next year."
The valuable Tattersalls Ireland George Mernagh Memorial Sales Bumper also went to the Mullins operation as Castello Sforza (9-2), partnered by the trainer's son Patrick, made a winning debut in the colours of Pearl Bloodstock.
Mullins said: "I've no intention of going to Punchestown with him. Maybe he could go for the bumper at the Curragh, but we'll probably put him away.
"This man (Sheikh Fahad) has got into the game to go jumping and the aim is Cheltenham next year. Whether that's for the bumper or over hurdles, we'll see."