Tied Cottage stroll for Cyclone
All roads lead back to the Cheltenham Festival for Hidden Cyclone after Shark Hanlon's pride and joy enjoyed his day in the sun with a fine front-running display in the Boylesports Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown.
The 10-year-old was a bridesmaid on a few occasions last season, finding one too good in the Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown, the Clarence House at Ascot and the Ryanair Chase at Prestbury Park in March.
Falls at Punchestown on his final appearance of the campaign and his comeback run at Thurles added to the frustration, but having chased home the reopposing Twinlight at Leopardstown over Christmas, he was the 6-5 favourite to reverse the placings with an 8lb pull at the weights in this Grade Two event.
Dominating from the front throughout, Hidden Cyclone jumped neatly in the hands of Andrew McNamara and left his rivals trailing when kicking on from two out.
With those previous tumbles perhaps in mind, McNamara slowed his mount down heading to the final fence, but he popped over nicely and had plenty in hand as he passed the post five lengths clear of Bright New Dawn, who edged out Twinlight for second.
Paddy Power cut Hidden Cyclone to 12-1 from 20-1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham and although he also holds an entry in the Ryanair, the two-mile championship appears his likely destination.
Hanlon said: "We're happy for a change. We're so used to being second so it's good to come here and win.
"Over two miles he's good and he has plenty of cruising gears. I have to speak to the owners yet but I'd say the Queen Mother is the plan and he'll go straight to Cheltenham now.
"He jumped well today, never put a foot wrong, and I couldn't be happier. I'd say that's the best he's ever jumped.
"He also did something today which he hasn't ever done and that's settle. Andrew said going to the start he thought there was something wrong with him
"We've done a lot of work at home getting him settled and I have to thank my staff who have put in a lot of work."