Simply Ned lunged late to successfully defend his crown and cause another big upset in the Grade 1 Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown.
The Nicky Richards-trained veteran had made five previous appearances at Leopardstown, finishing out of the first three just once.
The 11-year-old enjoyed his day in the sun when claiming this prize last season – passing the post narrowly behind the Willie Mullins-trained Min before the result was reversed in the stewards’ room – and he was sent off at 16/1 for a repeat.
Mullins once again fielded the hot favourite in Footpad (evens), who was bidding to bounce back from a disappointing comeback run at Naas.
For much of the two-mile journey everything appeared to be going to plan for the market leader, who jumped accurately under Ruby Walsh and swept to the front on the run to the final fence.
He looked to have victory in the bag after setting off up the run-in, but Mark Walsh conjured a late run out of Simply Ned and got up to score by half a length.
Mullins’ second string Great Field made much of the running, but appeared booked for a place at best when crashing out at the final obstacle.
Aramon ran out a dominant winner of the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle.
Willie Mullins had saddled four previous winners of the Grade 1 contest – including each of the last three – and this year had readied a twin assault.
Having finished third behind stablemate Quick Grabim in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse on his latest outing, Aramon was a 6/1 chance in the hands of Ruby Walsh, with stablemate Sancta Simona a better-fancied 5/2 chance under Barry Geraghty.
Walsh settled Aramon at the rear of the six-strong field for much of the two-mile journey, but was travelling powerfully in behind the leaders rounding the home turn.
Once the gap came, the five-year-old joined Sancta Simona for the lead at the final flight and fairly shot clear on the run-in, coming home with 10 lengths in hand. Tintangle was three lengths further back in third.
Mullins said: “It was a pleasant surprise that he did it in that manner. When Sancta Simona took the lead turning for home, I thought the race was over. I could see Ruby coming through, but I didn’t think he had that much in the tank. It was unbelievable what he pulled out.
“He obviously likes this ground, it’s nice and lively out there.
“Supreme Horse Racing look like they’ve found a real good horse, which is good for them. There’s a good crew of them here.
“He has to go down the Grade 1 route now. That looks like his trip, on that ground, and it’s nice to win a Grade 1 race for Supreme Racing here.”
High-class Flat performer Sir Erec made a successful start to his jumping career in a thrilling climax to the Paddy Power 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle.
The son of Camelot won a Curragh maiden and a listed prize at Limerick earlier in the year, before finishing third behind star stayer Stradivarius in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot.
Having subsequently moved from Aidan O’Brien’s yard to join his son, Joseph, Sir Erec was unsurprisingly a warm order for his hurdling bow as the 11/10 favourite, carrying the colours of J.P. McManus.
Sir Erec jumped well in the main and travelled powerfully into the home straight – but the Willie Mullins-trained Tiger Tap Tap was going similarly well in his slipstream.
The two settled down to fight it out after the final flight and, following a titanic tussle, it was the O’Brien runner who passed the post a neck to the good in the hands of Mark Walsh.
O’Brien said: “He was obviously a decent horse on the flat and he jumped well. His jumping will come on a nice bit for that. I was a bit nervous before the race, because there was a really strong word for the second. I’m delighted to see him do that and he was tough from the back of the last when he had to be.
“You can only do as much as you can at home and then they have to go and run. He had always schooled nicely, so it’s nice to see him go and win. He’ll probably come back here next as that makes sense. He stays well and he’ll have to come on from that.”
The McManus colours were again in the winner's enclosure following the three-mile Paddy Power Handicap Chase, won by the Enda Bolger-trained Auvergnat.
Sent off at 28/1, Donie McInerney's mount was wearing blinkers for the first time and strode right away from his rivals for a wide-margin success.
The winner, one of eight McManus-owned horses in the race, had been running in cross-country chases.
Bolger said: "He'll have a penalty for the La Touche now anyway! He travelled so sweet. Last week we put blinkers on him because he ran in a couple of hurdle races and ran terrible lazy. He was on fire everywhere today. Even though Donie lost his whip on the run-in he didn't need it. He'll probably go to the cross-country in Cheltenham and we'll see after that. This will be well celebrated tonight."
In between his wins aboard Sir Erec and Simply Ned, jockey Mark Walsh won the novice chase on the high-class Paloma Blue.
Third in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown and fourth in the Supreme at Cheltenham, Henry de Bromhead's runner was odds-on for his introduction to the larger obstacles at Navan last month, but could only finish fourth.
He was a 4/1 shot to bounce back to winning ways and while his task was made easier by the final-fence fall of 9/4 favourite Real Steel, he ultimately won well, by six and a half lengths.
"I'm delighted with that. His jumping is still a bit dodgy, but he's getting there," said de Bromhead. "I'm not sure making the running was ideal, but we had to because he needs a good even gallop. He seemed to be looking around a lot. He's classy. He looked to be going well to the last, I'm not sure what would have happened, but he looked to be going well and I'm delighted he's won."
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