City Island justified his prohibitive odds with a convincing performance in the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Novice Hurdle at Naas.
Martin Brassil’s six-year-old looked good when lifting a maiden at Leopardstown at Christmas after being disqualified when first past the post at Galway, and further boosted his prospects for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in fine style.
Always having pace-setting The Echo Boy in his sights, the 1-5 shot took the lead between the final two flights and skipped clear under Mark Walsh to score by seven lengths.
“It was an ideal race for him to have a run before he goes over (to Cheltenham). They (owners Sean and Bernadine Mulryan) are mad keen to have a horse to run in their own race (Ballymore) at Cheltenham and thankfully we might have fallen on one,” said Brassil.
“It’s been the plan since Galway and we just picked out a couple of races to fit in. Hopefully it will be onwards and upwards from here, as long as there is racing.
“He jumps very well. We might as well be running around for a few quid as running around for nothing.
“He’s a nice horse to have. Mark said he’ll probably get three miles in time so the trip of the Cheltenham race won’t be an inconvenience anyway, I wouldn’t think.”
City Island was left unchanged at 8-1 for the Ballymore with Paddy Power.
Pravalaguna gave a bold, front-running display to take Listed honours in the BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Mares Chase.
The 8-13 favourite overcame a scare at the fifth fence from home in the two-mile feature, as she followed up her first victory over fences at Limerick in December.
Jockey Paul Townend appeared to lose an iron briefly, but was back on an even keel before the next obstacle which his partner jumped fluently.
Success never seemed to be in doubt after that and the seven-year-old, trained by Willie Mullins, went on to score by 14 lengths. Baie Des Iles was second, a short head in front of Teacher’s Pet.
Next month’s Cheltenham Festival could now be on the agenda.
“It was a nice performance. The mistake seemed to wake her up and she galloped on away at the end, so she can go two or two-and-a-half (miles). I’d have no trouble going an extra half mile with her again,” said Mullins.
“The Arkle is a possibility. I know the connections would like to have a runner at Cheltenham, no more than myself. She’s also in the JLT, so both are a possibility.
“We didn’t think she would survive her fall in Auteuil (in June 2017). She’s made a great recovery and has won her last couple of races now.”
Emily Moon enjoyed enterprising tactics adopted by Robbie Power — on his only ride of the day — to take division one of the Cavan Developments Maiden Hurdle virtually unchallenged.
Power had Jessica Harrington’s mare in front very quickly and she soon built up a handy lead as she powered home by 14 lengths from Debuchet, the 7-4 favourite, with Sky Marshal three-quarters of a length away in third.
“I was very impressed with her,” said Power.
“She’s improved a good bit and probably dropping back half a mile in trip suited her better as she loves jumping out and rolling. Over two miles you can let her go, you’re not worried about the trip.
“Coming back to two suited her. She jumped super bar one mistake four out, she’s good and brave and attacks her hurdles.
“I couldn’t hear in the wind if there was anything coming so I kept the revs up and when I looked around half up the run-in I couldn’t believe how far clear I was. It was a good performance.”
Kate Harrington, assistant to her mother, said: “We’re delighted to get her off the mark over jumps. She won her bumper very impressively in Cork, but has taken a while to get her jumping together.
“The plan today was to bowl along like she did when she won her bumper.
“We’ll probably go in search of some black type now. We’ll see if we can get another run into her before Cheltenham — she might be one for the mares’ novice.”