Hot favourite Debuchet could finish only third as City Island made an impressive start to his jumping career in the Win Big With Tote Maiden Hurdle at Galway.
Runner-up to the ill-fated Fayonagh in the 2017 Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, the Mags Mullins-trained Debuchet was the 9-10 market leader having competed at Grade One level at Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown last season.
The grey travelled well throughout and hit the front jumping the second flight from home under Danny Mullins, but Mark Walsh covered the move aboard Martin Brassil’s Punchestown bumper winner City Island and the 10-1 shot drew three and a quarter lengths clear in the home straight.
Getareason came through to beat Debuchet to the runner-up spot.
Brassil, who is best known for training Grand National winner Numbersixvalverde and high-class chaser Nickname, said: “He’s a nice horse. He was a bit weak last year.
“We gave him his first run in the unraced bumper at the Punchestown Festival and he ran very well to be second and followed up there after that.
“He’s strengthened up since and I was hopeful he might progress. It’s probably not the ideal place to start a horse off over hurdles, in the company he was in, but I thought a bit of him and Sean and Bernardine (Mulryan, owners) like to have a runner or two in Galway with a chance.
“He’s the best young horse I’ve had in quite a while. He might get us somewhere bigger and better. Everyone thinks there is nowhere better than Galway but there is!
“The owner might want to go to Listowel. He likes that meeting, too, and there is a novice there. We’ll let the horse tell us.”
Diamond Hill got up in the shadow of the post to win a thrilling renewal of the Win Big With Tote (Q.R.) Maiden.
The Willie Mullins-trained bumper winner was the 11-8 favourite for her Flat debut, with the champion trainer’s son, Patrick, on board.
She encountered trouble in running before the home turn and looked booked for minor honours at that stage, with National Wealth having already committed for home.
However, Mullins junior threw everything at Diamond Hill and she lunged late to emerge victorious by a head, providing owners the Mee family with their third winner at this year’s Festival in as many days.
“I don’t know how she extracted herself from all that interference,” said Mullins senior.
“She mightn’t be too bad, I think. She’s not a big filly. She had every excuse to be beaten and she still kept pulling, every time she saw a bit of a daylight she kept going.”
The winning rider said: “Everything went wrong. They went a good gallop and the whole idea was to get her settled as she was quite keen the last day. She’s done spectacularly well to win.
“I could have a few choice words with a few people when I go in as she could have come down very easily. She has a great pedigree as she’s a half-sister to Blackstairmountain. It’s great to win this for the Mees as this is their Cheltenham.
“She has a lot of gears and she’ll win again on the Flat. She will be a good dual-purpose mare.”
Rovetta stormed home to record a 33-1 surprise in the Tote Irish EBF Mares Handicap Hurdle.
Jessica Harrington’s four-year-old was first reserve for the 35,000 euro contest, but got a run after Brian Ellison withdrew Our Kylie earlier in the day on account of the rain-softened ground.
Harrington said: “It was her first handicap and we thought quite a lot of her when she came to us. She was bought in Deauville before Christmas, by David Minton, for Kate (Harrington).
“We liked her and Kate leased her to the syndicate that HRI set up through Sean O’Brien, the rugby player.
“She had a few runs and ran well but she got kicked at the start on one of them. This was her first handicap and she really appreciated the dig in the ground.”
Henry de Bromhead’s Black Key (10-1) powered clear to win thetote.com Handicap Hurdle in the hands of Rachael Blackmore.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned six-year-old was always well to the fore and having taken over the lead on the run to the third flight from home, he left his rivals trailing in his work from the final bend to seal a runaway victory.
De Bromhead said: “I’m delighted and it’s great to get a winner here. He’s tough and Rachael’s riding brilliant, she gave him a super ride.
“He won well, I thought he was a bit exposed, but there you go. The step up in trip suited him and he won well.
“I was saying to Eddie (O’Leary) that we’d probably find easier options, but he said to chance him and luckily we did.
“He’ll go chasing sooner rather than later.”
Ger Lyons and Colin Keane combined to land the thetote.com Handicap with 10-1 shot Espere.
“She was all over the place to be honest,” said Keane.
“In that ground she was nodding coming into the dip, still a little bit green, and rolling around on the ground.
“She was hard to keep straight but she’s classier than them and she’s done it well.”