Willie Mullins won the Ballymaloe Foods Beginners Chase at Leopardstown as expected, but it was the trainer’s second-string Easy Game who came home in front rather than favourite Allaho.
Allaho was placed in Grade Ones as a novice hurdler and Paul Townend attempted to keep things simple by dictating from the front on his chasing bow, but his jumping was not perfect.
Easy Game, on the other hand, gained lengths at several fences for Danny Mullins and jumped to the front after the last, holding on to win by a length and a quarter.
The winner was paying yet another compliment to Henry de Bromhead’s mare Honeysuckle, as he was put in his place by the Hatton’s Grace winner on his seasonal debut over hurdles.
“I was expecting the other horse to win, but Easy Game just has that little bit more speed,” said Mullins.
“Paul felt the other horse just needed the race. He thought maybe the next day, under the same conditions, he would turn the tables.
“The Dublin Racing Festival would be the obvious target for Easy Game now all being well.
“Allaho gallops and jumps. They could both come back here for the Flogas Novice Chase.”
Mullins was denied a double when Ferny Hollow was beaten in the Midland Legal Solicitors INH Flat Race by Joseph O’Brien’s Forged In Fire, giving rider Neil Bashford a first winner under rules.
Gordon Elliott enjoyed a Grade One double on the card with Apple’s Jade and Delta Work and The Bosses Oscar provided him with another in the Tote Supporting Leopardstown Maiden Hurdle.
After a promising debut over obstacles, he was sent off a 4-1 chance under Davy Russell, but when Fun Light kicked clear off the home bend it looked as though he may have to settle for a place.
However, Russell knew what he had underneath him and after a big leap at the last, he quickened smartly to win by four lengths with the favourite, Jon Snow, only third.
“He’s a nice horse,” said Elliott.
“He doesn’t show a whole lot at home, but Davy was mad about him after the last day. Today was the plan and it’s great for Valerie and Noel Moran (owners), who are big supporters of the yard so it’s very important.
“We’ll try to find a little winners’ race with him and then see where we go.”
The Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle went to the progressive Treacysenniscorthy.
Carrying a low weight, Kevin Brouder decided to make all on Robert Widger’s imposing type, and it proved a shrewd move.
Ronald Pump, back over hurdles having run in the Drinmore Novice Chase last time out, made relentless late progress but went down by a length – conceding 2st to the winner.
“It’s great to get it, brilliant. It was touch and go if he was going to get in or not,” said Widger.
“We’ve only two horses for the track, so it’s great. I have him and his half-sister.
“I knew he was in good form and is improving all the time. He won over two and a half miles on the inside track at Punchestown last time and I knew going three miles around here would suit better.
“In off his low weight with Kevin taking 3lb off him was big help as well.
“He’s a chaser really and I have my heart set on a novice handicap chase at Navan in the middle of March. After that we’ll decide.”