Rathvinden is firmly on course for Aintree after giving Willie Mullins an eighth success in the BetVictor Bobbyjo Chase on his reappearance in the Grade Three feature at Fairyhouse.
Out of action since finishing fourth in the Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown in April, the Cheltenham National Hunt Chase scorer made his stamina tell in the closing stages.
In doing so, he boosted his claims for the Randox Health Grand National and was cut to 12-1 from 20-1 to be second-favourite behind Tiger Roll.
Alpha Des Obeaux had made a bold bid to lead all the way, but could not hold Rathvinden, who was brought into contention from four out.
The complexion of the race had changed when Magic Of Light, the 6-4 favourite, unseated Robbie Power at the eighth-last fence.
Rathvinden (100-30) came clear on the run-in to win by three and a half lengths under Paul Townend. The winner was Mullins’ only representative after Pleasant Company, the winner in 2017, was a late withdrawal.
Mullins said: “That was a nice first run of the season, and I’d imagine he’ll go for the National. That would be the usual route from here. We’re keen to go and the owner is keen to go.
“He was really firing at home and I was really happy with him.”
He added: “He’s a horse that’s had his troubles over the years and he’s good and sound now so he may not have another run before the National.
“We’ll see how he comes out of this race first.”
There was a ‘what happened next’ conclusion to the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase as Dakota Moirette and Aint Dunne Yet departed at the last, leaving Graineyhill to come home in front.
Dakota Moirette (1-2 favourite) and Aint Dunne Yet had dominated from some way out and the outcome was still in the balance when the former fell at the last.
Aint Dunne Yet looked to be out of harm’s way – but his legs got tangled up with Dakota Moirette on the ground, causing Sean Flanagan to unseat.
Graineyhill (12-1), a stable companion of Dakota Moirette at Gordon Elliott’s yard, was then left to come through for an eight-length win, after being well off the leaders when the drama unfolded.
Keith Donoghue rode Graineyhill, and Elliott said: “We had a bit of luck on our side. We were unlucky and lucky. I don’t know if the other lad would have won or not. He took off half a length in front but he stepped into it.
“We’ll take any winner we get, and that’s why you should always run two in a race!”
Way Back Home (2-1) put up a game front-running performance in the Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle.
The four-year-old has got better with each run over jumps and after striking at the fifth attempt over this course and distance just 10 days earlier, the Padraig Roche-trained gelding successfully stepped up to Grade Three company.
It was a first graded triumph for Roche, who said: “He seems to have improved and has surprised me. Robert said he goes a nice gallop and keeps going.
“It’s great to get a Grade Three, especially for the owners who have been very patient with him.
“He’s not entered at Cheltenham, but we could have a look at one of the festivals now. I’d say the owners would love to have a runner at Punchestown.”