HOT-favourite Andy Dufresne could finish only third as Jason The Militant fought off Beacon Edge in a thrilling climax to the Paddy Power Betting Shop Novice Hurdle at Naas.
Having bounced back from an odds-on defeat at Navan with a narrow victory in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown last month, the Gordon Elliott-trained Andy Dufresne was the 6/5 market leader to double his Grade 2 tally in the hands of Mark Walsh.
However, while he travelled well for much of the two-mile contest, his finishing effort was a little lacklustre and he had to make do with minor honours.
Henry de Bromhead’s 25/1 shot Jason The Militant was in front from the off under Rachael Blackmore, with Beacon Edge and Denis O’Regan always his closest pursuers.
A mistake from Beacon Edge at the final obstacle put the latter on the back foot, and although he battled back bravely to almost join Jason The Militant on the line, the judge confirmed De Bromhead’s charge had held on by a nose.
???? Thriller!— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 23, 2020
Jason The Militant captures Graded honours for @HenrydeBromhead under a cracking ride by @rachaelblackmor, denying Beacon Edge at @NaasRacecourse
Results ? https://t.co/glajGV55GR pic.twitter.com/ae42WLCRgb
De Bromhead said: “We were disappointed with him at Leopardstown last time, but I think he just loves the soft ground.
“Peter (Michael, owner/breeder) came up with those tactics and suggested we try and nick a few lengths at the start if no one wanted to go on. Rachael executed the tactics brilliantly.
“He was third to Envoi Allen in a bumper on goodish ground, and that seemed to jar him up a bit. It took him a while to come back.”
Considering future targets, the trainer added: “I pulled him out (of Cheltenham), but it’s brilliant to get this. Peter still has the mare, and it’s brilliant to get the blacktype.
“We’ll look for something wherever there is proper soft ground.”