Carberry is ready
Paul Carberry proved his readiness for the Cheltenham when returning from a 16-day layoff to ride The Bunny Boiler to success at Naas yesterday.
There was certainly no indication of any lingering back trouble for Florida Pearl's rider as he made most of the running on the even money favourite, who set a decent gallop from the start of the three-mile maiden hurdle.
The Bunny Boiler was joined by Solar Quest at the second last flight but Carberry proved his fitness by vigorously driving Noel Meade's runner out.
Meade had had no concerns about the jockey's fitness, as he revealed Carberry survived a fall when riding out on Saturday morning. Indeed, the Meath trainer had much more reason for concern over the The Bunny Boiler last Christmas.
"On Christmas Day, he dropped his lad when they were circling in the shed, the saddle went right back and the horse went flying out the door head on into a wall. We thought he'd fractured his head, his hip, everything. He was bruised all over but luckily he survived. He's always been a little kinky.
"We had been thinking of the four-miler at Cheltenham because he stays forever, but the accident buggered that up. The owners are keen to go over fences next year," said Meade, who was saddling his fourth winner in a row after saddling the last three at Navan on Saturday.
The reputation of Naas as a punters graveyard took a knock as six of the seven favourites scored including Zourito and Well Ridden, who provided a double for Arthur Moore and Conor O'Dwyer.
Zourito defined 12st in the handicap chase, running on too strongly for An Modh Direach and sending Moore and O'Dwyer to Cheltenham in good heart.
"We run four. Native Upmanship, Feathered Leader in the Mildmay Of Flete, Phariwarmer in the Coral Cup and Klairon Davis in the Grand Annual," confirmed Moore, who could run Zourito again at Navan in a fortnight.
Well Ridden could be an Aintree contender after overcoming Liscahill Hill in the novice hurdle. He survived a stewards' inquiry into interference with the runner-up, and Moore said: "He should make a nice chaser."
The shortest priced favourite of the day was the 2 to 13 Donadino but he was narrowest winner after a prolonged tussle from the last with Shanes Hero in the three-runner novice chase.
"That's the way a 1 to 7 shot should win!" quipped trainer Charlie Swan, but Donadino had pulled hard throughout and had dived at the fourth last and second last fences.
The one non-favourite to score was the handicap hurdle bottom weight, Keelaun Express, who was brought with a cool and well-timed challenge by claimer David O'Leary to account for Monty's Fancy.
It was a case of the calm before the storm at Navan on Saturday, but for champion rider Ruby Walsh the day provided him with a welcome change of luck when he returned to winning ways with a 15 to 1 double.