Ground is likely to dictate Winter Escape’s chosen Grade One engagement at the Dublin Racing Festival, after he excelled at Punchestown on Sunday.
Carrying a penalty in a Grade Three, having already won at that level, Winter Escape was conceding a stone to Henry de Bromhead’s favourite A Plus Tard.
Confidently ridden by Mark Walsh, he jumped past that rival at the last to win comfortably – and Grade One targets await, with entries at Leopardstown next month in the Irish Arkle and the Flogas Novice Chase over two miles and five furlongs.
“He seems fine this morning – he came home, and ate up,” said trainer Aidan Howard.
“It didn’t surprise me how well he won, but I did think it would be tricky giving a stone to Henry’s horse. I’ve always really liked him, and he was very impressive.
“(Previous trainer) Alan King always thought the world of him. But he lost his way a little – which happens – he’s still relatively young, with not many miles on the clock.”
If the rain continues to stay away, that will suit the JP McManus-owned eight-year-old just fine.
Howard added: “Which race he runs in at Leopardstown will depend on ground, and how he is in a couple of weeks. We won’t rush him – all ground seems to come alike to him, but I don’t think he’d want a bog.
“I’ve been working for Mr McManus for about three or four years now, doing his pre-training. I wasn’t expecting to keep this lad, but it was very kind of them to leave him with me.
“It’s nice to repay them with a few nice races. It’s a massive boost to the yard, and I hope we can win a few more.”