City Island justified his prohibitive odds with a convincing performance in the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Novice Hurdle at Naas.
Martin Brassil’s six-year-old looked good when lifting a maiden at Leopardstown at Christmas after being disqualified when first past the post at Galway, and further boosted his prospects for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in fine style.
Always having pace-setting The Echo Boy in his sights, the 1-5 shot took the lead between the final two flights and skipped clear under Mark Walsh to score by seven lengths.
“It was an ideal race for him to have a run before he goes over (to Cheltenham). They (owners Sean and Bernadine Mulryan) are mad keen to have a horse to run in their own race (Ballymore) at Cheltenham and thankfully we might have fallen on one,” said Brassil.
“It’s been the plan since Galway and we just picked out a couple of races to fit in. Hopefully it will be onwards and upwards from here, as long as there is racing.
“He jumps very well. We might as well be running around for a few quid as running around for nothing.
“He’s a nice horse to have. Mark said he’ll probably get three miles in time so the trip of the Cheltenham race won’t be an inconvenience anyway, I wouldn’t think.”
City Island was left unchanged at 8-1 for the Ballymore with Paddy Power, while RaceBets went 9-1 from 16-1.
Band Of Outlaws joined the strong team of smart juvenile jumpers from the Joseph O’Brien stable by coming from last to first to claim the EMS Copiers Rated Novice Hurdle.
O’Brien has the ante-post favourite for the Triumph Hurdle in Sir Erec, and Band Of Outlaws staked his claim for Cheltenham by showing a decisive turn of foot to come out on top in a slowly-run race.
Delivered with a well-timed bid by JJ Slevin, Band Of Outlaws (5-2) drew away from long-time leader Maze Runner after the final flight to win by four and three-quarter lengths.
“I’d say the race suited him as they went slow. He was a seven-furlong horse or miler on the Flat, it turned into a bit of a sprint and that probably suited the quickest horse in the race,” said O’Brien.
“He might be one to stay at home. I don’t know if he’d be one for the Triumph or not.
“He’s got plenty of pace. I guess he could run in the Fred Winter.”
O’Brien admitted being disappointed with his other runner, Konitho, who was only fifth of the six despite being sent off the 11-10 favourite.
“You’d have to say he was a little bit disappointing. The race probably didn’t suit him as he’s a bigger, more of a staying-type of horse,” said the trainer.
O’Brien completed a double when Eviscerating (10-1) had his head down at the right time to pip Coral Blue by a nose in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle in the hands of Evan Daly.
Emily Moon enjoyed enterprising tactics adopted by Robbie Power – on his only ride of the day – to take division one of the Cavan Developments Maiden Hurdle virtually unchallenged.
Power had Jessica Harrington’s mare in front very quickly and she soon built up a handy lead as she powered home by 14 lengths from Debuchet, the 7-4 favourite, with Sky Marshal three-quarters of a length away in third.
“I was very impressed with her,” said Power.
“She’s improved a good bit and probably dropping back half a mile in trip suited her better as she loves jumping out and rolling. Over two miles you can let her go, you’re not worried about the trip.
“Coming back to two suited her. She jumped super bar one mistake four out, she’s good and brave and attacks her hurdles.
“I couldn’t hear in the wind if there was anything coming so I kept the revs up and when I looked around half up the run-in I couldn’t believe how far clear I was. It was a good performance.”
Kate Harrington, assistant to her mother, said: “We’re delighted to get her off the mark over jumps. She won her bumper very impressively in Cork, but has taken a while to get her jumping together.
“The plan today was to bowl along like she did when she won her bumper.
“We’ll probably go in search of some black type now. We’ll see if we can get another run into her before Cheltenham – she might be one for the mares’ novice.”