Willie Mullins dominated the Navan Novice Hurdle on Sunday once more with Easy Game quickening up to beat stablemate Getareason.
Mullins already had six victories in the past 10 years to his name in the race, which was run as a Grade 1 for several seasons and is now a Grade 2 affair.
Easy Game had won a Grade 3 over course and distance last month, displaying a smart turn of foot that was again on show.
Settled at the rear, along with Getareason, Ruby Walsh was intent on sticking to the rail, but he was short of room early in the straight, before bursting through to lead at the last.
Getareason had made a move down the outside clear of trouble, looking a real danger, but Easy Game (4/1) knuckled down to win going away in the end by two lengths.
Defi Bleu was sent off the 3/1 favourite but had to settle for third.
Mullins said: “Ruby met with a lot of interference, so it just goes to show how brave the horse is. That’s his sixth run this campaign and his fourth win.
“He’s a horse that has gone a bit under the radar with us. I didn’t dream he would be this successful, and he’s improving all the time. He’s had a tough season for a four-year-old.”
Looking to future plans, Mullins said: “Normally we go from this race to the Lawlor’s race in Naas (Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle, Grade 1 on January 6), but this horse has a different profile than previous winners of this race that we’ve had. We’ll see how he comes out of this, but he keeps surprising me and getting stronger and better.”
He added of the runner-up: “I was delighted with Getareason. He jumped slow, but he jumped a lot better than he did the last day, and he showed that he’s got an engine. He should be up to winning graded races on that run, and maybe he could go further.”
Defi Bleu’s trainer Gordon Elliott enjoyed better luck when Battleoverdoyen announced himself as a smart prospect with a stylish victory in the Irish Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle.
Bought for £235,000 after winning a point-to-point, he did not run for well over a year before making a winning debut under rules in a Punchestown bumper last month.
Elliott wasted no time in sending him over hurdles and he jumped with great accuracy for Jack Kennedy, having no trouble in landing cramped odds of 8/15, cruising home 13 lengths clear of Momus, also in the Gigginstown House Stud colours.
“We think he’s a nice horse. He improved a lot from his run the last day in the bumper and he’ll improve again for his first run over hurdles,” said Elliott. He jumped very well and a step up in trip the next day will suit him. He stays very well. He’ll probably go to Naas next (for the Lawlor’s race), all being well.”
Elliott added a second success on the day in the concluding bumper when recent winner Envoi Allen followed up under a penalty in the colours of Cheveley Park Stud. The winner looks one of the best bumper horses seen out so far this season.
Lots to like about this performance - Envoi Allen is a class apart in the last at @NavanRacecourse, pulling away in fine style and remains two-from-two for @gelliott_racing... pic.twitter.com/70q37pM7oQ— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) December 16, 2018
Salty Boy rewarded market support in the Tara Handicap Hurdle for Mags and Danny Mullins. Sent off at 11/2 in the 20-runner field, he was produced to perfection by the trainer’s son.
As befitted such a competitive race there were still plenty in with chances at the second-last flight, with Golden Jewel emerging as a challenger after the pace-setting Squouateur began to weaken.
But it was Salty Boy who finished off strongest, beating Golden Jewel by half a length. Dromore Lad stayed on well into third, ahead of Walk To Freedom in fourth.
“He’s just so genuine and has improved again today. He never runs a bad race,” said Mags Mullins.
“We’ll wait and see how he comes out of this. He might have an entry for Christmas or it might come a bit soon. We’ll let him tell us. He stays well and you have to stay well here up the hill. He should be a nice chaser in time.”
NEXT EDITION OF THE IRISH FIELD IS IN SHOPS ON CHRISTMAS EVE!