DEEP Cave lunged late to provide Henry de Bromhead with a welcome tonic in the opening Savills Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The Knockeen handler failed to saddle a winner across the first two days of the Christmas Festival and less than an hour before day three got under way, he was forced to withdraw his Cheltenham Gold Cup hero A Plus Tard from the featured Savills Chase on veterinary advice.
Deep Cave, a £235,000 purchase after winning an Irish point-to-point, shaped with significant promise when runner-up on his hurdling debut at Punchestown last month, though, and was an 11/4 chance to go one better.
Lot Of Joy looked likely to provide Willie Mullins with yet another winner following his Tuesday’s six-timer at the Foxrock track after taking over the lead from Firm Footings.
But the 6/5 favourite wandered under pressure after the final flight and Rachael Blackmore conjured a late run from Deep Cave to get up and score by half a length.
De Bromhead said: “He’s a nice horse and we always liked him. I thought he was going to win in Punchestown and then he just got outbattled.
“Davy (Russell) felt he went a bit soon the last day, so we said we’d take our time. I’m delighted for the owners who are new to the game.
Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy combined to win the following two races with Sam’s Choice and the fast-improving Maxxum respectively.
Kennedy delivered 8/1 shot Sam’s Choice with a well-timed challenge to secure top honours in the Irish Daily Star Christmas Handicap Hurdle before 11/4 favourite Maxxum routed his rivals in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle to supplement a similarly dominant success at Navan last month.
The latter was cut to 4/1 from 16/1 by Betfair for the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival.
“In fairness, Jack said to run Sam’s Choice in a big field. He followed them around and it worked out well,” said Elliott.
“We thought Maxxum was well handicapped when he came to us and we’re very happy with him. He’s going the right way."