Stormy Ireland made every post a winning one to lead home a Willie Mullins one-two in the Grade Three Advent Insurance Irish EBF Mares Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The habitual front-runner was sent off the 9-10 favourite, and never looked like getting caught as Paul Townend guided her to a five-and-a-half-length win over stablemate Elfile.
“She’s a brilliant jumper,” said the winning trainer.
“We’d love to go chasing with her – she’s not big, but she’s big-hearted.
“Paul was very positive on her – she likes to gallop and jump. It was going to be very hard for any of those, under the conditions of today’s race, to stay with her.
“The ground obviously made things a lot easier for her. She’s a nice mare, and I hope we can pick up some more nice prizes for the rest of the season.”
Her targets may yet include the Cheltenham Festival – although Mullins’ confidence for that lofty assignment is tempered.
“She’s rated 147 and would really want to be 157 or 160 to be good enough to win a Mares’ Hurdle,” he added.
“She’ll be good enough to enter in it, and probably run in it.
“I couldn’t see her as winning material. We’ll try and find better opportunities for her if we can. She did everything right today, and couldn’t have done any more.
“The conditions today really suited her, and it might be hard to get another race like that for the rest of the season.”
Cobbler’s Way (9-2) provided the in-form duo of Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore with another winner, in the Pigsback.com Maiden Hurdle.
Mullins’ hot favourite The Big Getaway was seemingly going well, running to the last, but made a mess of it and ended up only fourth.
“Rachael got a great jump at the last, and I don’t think she had quite gone for him yet,” said De Bromhead.
“He’s always been a horse we’ve thought a lot of. We were a bit disappointed with him the first day, but he seems to have come on a lot for his first run.
“He’s one we’ll look forward to. We might look at the two-mile-six race for him back here in February.
“I’d need to speak to (owners) Michael and Eddie (O’Leary) and see what they’d like to do – (it will be) either that or the Surehaul in Clonmel. I think we’ll step him up in trip anyway.
“He’s a massive, big horse – and I was surprised when he won his bumper, to be honest. He’s just a lovely, big, galloping horse.”
Best Behavior (8-1) provided Oliver McKiernan with a second Christmas winner, in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Chase.
Joseph O’Brien’s Eric Bloodaxe (8-11 favourite) is Betfair’s 12-1 favourite for the Champion Bumper after following up a debut win, in the O’Driscoll O’Neil Insurance Brokers INH Flat Race.
“He’s a lovely horse and he won well first time out,” said O’Brien.
“It was a messier race today, but he still managed to do the job.
“This lad has always stood out. He’s a beautiful horse and he always worked well.
“He won’t be over-raced this year. He’s a horse, I’d say, that we’d like to mind.
“I would never really have had it in my head that I would have wanted to go to Cheltenham with him.
“I’m not going to say definitely not. He could come back here in February – that might make sense – but mind you, that’s his second run now in five or six weeks, and he could go to Punchestown.”