CILAOS Emery landed very short odds for a stylish Grade 3 win at Gowran Park, putting himself on course for a possible shot at next month’s Champion Hurdle.
Willie Mullins’ lightly raced eight-year-old was running over the smaller obstacles for the first time since December 2017, but he was sent off the 1/4 favourite in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle.
He justified those odds emphatically, dismissing last year’s winner of the race, Darasso, by nine and a half lengths under Paul Townend.
Cilaos Emery loomed up on the wide outside of Darasso and the front-running Mengli Khan to take the lead two out and they then surged clear in the heavy ground.
He was last seen falling at the first fence at Leopardstown two weeks ago, and retains entries in the both the Queen Mother Champion and Ryanair Chases.
But Mullins has had to rule two injured high-profile contenders out of the Champion Hurdle reckoning of late – and Cilaos Emery, who will need to be supplemented, could fill that vacancy.
Hello Champion Hurdle?— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 15, 2020
Cilaos Emery justifies big market support in the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle for Willie Mullins and @PTownend at @GowranPark1
Results ? https://t.co/glajGV55GR pic.twitter.com/9e0xDE2NcU
“The first half of (owner) Luke’s (McMahon) plan has gone to plan anyway,” said Mullins. “I thought he was very impressive, especially after his mistake at the third last. What he did in between the third last and the last was what impressed me.
“It’s very hard for any horse to be impressive, visually, on that ground and in that weather. I’d imagine that might mean he goes to the Champion Hurdle now.
“It was debated what chance would he have in the Champion Chase and what chance might he have in the Champion Hurdle.
“It was decided then that we’d run today, see what happens and that would make up our mind.
“We keep coming back to saying that he has as much of a chance in the Champion Hurdle as he has in the Champion Chase. That’s the reasoning behind where we are going.”