Russell runs up four-timer at Naas
Racing:Davy Russell was in sparkling form at Naas as he secured a four-timer, including victories aboard Solwhit and Tofino Bay in the two feature events of the day.
Solwhit showed his rivals a clean pair of heels as he ran out a comfortable winner of the Grade Three Limestone Lad Hurdle, his first win since returning from a near two-year spell on the sidelines.
The nine-year-old is a six-time Grade One winner but only returned to action last month when finishing second at Punchestown.
That outing seemed to have done him the world of good as Solwhit (4 to 5 favourite) cruised up to brave front-runner Whatuthink coming to the final flight.
Russell only had to give the signal for his mount to edge in front and although So Young tried to make a battle of it, Solwhit was in a different class and cruised home by four lengths.
Paddy Power make the Charles Byrnes-trained Solwhit a 10 to 1 chance for the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but the trainer is not certain Prestbury Park will be their ultimate destination.
He said: “I’m delighted to get him back. I have no real plans now, he’ll be entered in the World Hurdle.
“It’ll be an option but I don’t know whether he’ll go or not. We might consider France as we’d be guaranteed soft ground there.
“He was well-in today so maybe we shouldn’t be getting too carried away. He travelled well though and he looks back to somewhere near his best.
“The ground has never been a worry with him. When he won at Aintree it was on the good side. I don’t think there’s anything for him between now and March.”
Russell then steered Tofino Bay (2 to 1) to a hard-fought success in the Grade Two Woodlands Park 100 Club Novice Chase.
Willie Mullins’s Aupcharlie was sent off the 1 to 2 market leader for the five-runner heat but Russell was positive from the off aboard the Dessie Hughes-trained winner.
The pair were locked in battle at the last though, and while Aupcharlie just seemed to edge in front, Tofino Bay fought back and eventually passed the line with half a length to spare.
Hughes said: “That was good. The ground is the key. Not too many horses love that but he does.
“The PJ Moriarty (at Leopardstown) is where he’ll go now. That’s two-miles-five and he needs it to keep raining as that trip would be short enough.”
Tofino Bay sported the Gigginstown House Stud colours as did Un Atout, who ran out an impressive winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Irish Racing Writers Novice Hurdle.
Winner of his two previous racecourse starts, the Mullins-trained Un Atout cruised to the front two flights from home and eventually pulled 19 lengths clear at the line.
Mullins said: “He jumped well and he was very strong in the ground. He stayed but he has plenty of gears too.
“I’m very happy with everything he did today. He’ll be entered up in all the races.
“He’s in the Deloitte. He’ll hardly run before that and I don’t know if I want him to run in that either. I have no wish to step him up in trip just yet.”
Un Atout is now a 9 to 1 chance for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Stan James.
Russell had started his afternoon with success aboard Morning Assembly (10 to 11 favourite) in the opening INH Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle while Mullins completed his own double with Tennis Cap in the BESS Ball 16th of February Handicap Hurdle.