GORDON Elliott’s sensational run of form rolled on to Punchestown’s Winter Festival when Imagine completed a hat-trick on the Sunday card and contributed to an overall count of 10 weekend winners around the courses for Cullentra.

It was a nervy watch for supporters of the 3/10 favourite, as main rivals Uncle Phil (5/1) and Lucid Dreams (6/1) traded as short as 8/13 and even-money respectively when looking to have an edge over the Caldwell Construction-owned five-year-old.

However, Jack Kennedy was at his strongest on last season’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle fifth and came out on top by half a length despite stiff pressure.

Elliott said: “He’s a nice horse and probably wants further [than two miles]; two and a half miles would probably suit him better. The Grade 1 at Limerick this Christmas could be an option or we might bring him to Kempton on Boxing Day for the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase and run Gerri Colombe in the King George - but I could change my mind ten times before then!”

Royale upsets hotpot

There was a short-priced reversal in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle over two miles and six furlongs as Elliott’s race-fit Shannon Royale took 1/8 favourite Tullyhill out of his comfort zone and galloped him into the ground to register a 24-length success under Kennedy.

A strong-staying bumper winner who previously changed hands for £300,000 after finishing second on his point-to-point debut, the Robcour-owned winner (4/1) showed definite improvement from his last start when third to Lecky Watson at Thurles.

Elliott said: “I was disappointed with him the last day and put cheekpieces on to sharpen him up. He had fitness on his side but Jack said he was a different horse altogether today and maybe he just needed the run the last day. We’ll probably look for a three-mile handicap somewhere and see what happens.”

Cigar smokes them

Kennedy was a joy to watch in his front-running ride aboard Bob Cigar in the Fox Valet Retirement Handicap Hurdle over an extended three miles, drawing clear by a length and quarter to complete a Punchestown hat-trick on the day for connections.

Carrying the colours of Bronsan Racing, the £110,000 point-to-point recruit was making his handicap debut and proved ahead of the assessor on his mark of 112. This race marked the end of an era for the Fox family in their weighing room duties.

Elliott said: “This is a grand horse. We thought he might not be fit enough and Jack said he had a bit of a blow and he’ll come on from it.”

Hispanic Moon makes perfect start for Marigas

SMART mare Hispanic Moon got off to a dream start for Henry de Bromhead and the Mariga family when rattling the back of the net on her stable debut in the Listed Frontline Security Grabel Mares Hurdle under Darragh O’Keeffe.

A Grade 3-winning chaser in her native France, where she won seven of her 22 starts, the six-year-old by Spanish Moon had been picked up for €80,000 by Coolmara Stables in an online auction in April.

Her gritty success came as a surprise to most punters at 20/1, defying a 294-day layoff.

“She did it really well and had been working nicely at home,” said de Bromhead.

“She obviously had good form and Kieran [Mariga] spotted her. She’s a gorgeous-looking mare and I’d say that [two-mile-and-two-furlong-trip] is as short as she’d want.”

Birchdale in business

Earlier on the card, Enda Bolger landed the Pigsback.com Risk Of Thunder Chase for a record-extending 12th time as Birchdale (5/2 favourite) quickened clear in silky fashion to score by three and a half lengths from banks course regular Vital Island.

It was a performance that marked a second chasing success for the J.P. McManus-owned nine-year-old (and a first over banks) under Simon Torrens. Bolger also sent out promising third Mica Malpic.

“He was enjoying it anyway, which with those horses is the main thing, and the third horse ran well too,” said the winning trainer.

“Vital Island [runner-up] is a good old yardstick to know where you are going. We might have a look at Cheltenham in December. He’d like a bit of nicer ground in the spring.”

On a new layout to the banks course, Bolger added: “It seemed to ride well. There are no sharp bends and everyone got around safely, which is the main thing.”

Jody Ted ready for Christmas date

THERE could be some valuable prizes in the pipeline for the McDonagh family’s Jody Ted after a highly pleasing performance to land the Pertemps Network Group Handicap Hurdle - an early qualifier for the series final at the Cheltenham Festival.

The 2/1 favourite was keen in the hands of Mark McDonagh, who was riding in his father Mark’s colours for trainer Eoin Griffin, and was bidding to follow up a ready chasing win at Limerick a month earlier.

Racing off technically 19lb lower than his chase rating, he simply proved too well handicapped to be caught and came home a most cosy length-and-a-half-winner.

Griffin said: “Off his chase rating you could say he’s thrown in but it doesn’t always work out that way. It’s pleasing to get it done. He had a bit in the tank and stays well.

“It’s his first time completing a three-mile race so we’re happy with that and he’ll probably go to the Paddy Power Chase at Christmas. He’ll have a nice weight in that.

“He won a couple of races for us as a novice and then unfortunately picked up an injury. Last season when he came back, he didn’t have a lot of experience and he had days where he was a bit impatient. This season he’s been impeccable and is maturing with age.”

Cromwell collects in bumper

Fresh from a winner at Cork, Gavin Cromwell made it an across-the-card double in the concluding Irish Daily Mirror Bumper when The Passing Wife built on the experience of his hurdling debut fourth at Cork to strike under Declan Lavery.

A £48,000 point-to-point graduate for the Cant Say No Syndicate, the 3/1 shot dug deep and showed a fine attitude to fend off £225,000 purchase Prends Garde A Toi.

Cromwell said: “He never really showed us a whole pile at home. I thought he’d run a nice race today and be placed. We probably got there a tad too soon but he put his head down and wanted to win.”