Darasso wore down market rival Cadmium to claim victory in the Toals.com Webster Cup at Navan.
An impressive winner of the Grade Three Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park last month, Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso was a heavily backed even-money favourite as he returned to the larger obstacles for this Grade Two assignment – having won each of his two starts over fences in France.
It was not entirely straightforward for the market leader, who appeared to be struggling to keep up with the strong pace being set by Tycoon Prince and Woodland Opera in the early stages of the two-mile contest.
But Tycoon Prince faltered, and Woodland Opera made a bad mistake at the fence before the home straight, and it turned into a duel between the top two in the betting.
The Willie Mullins-trained Cadmium (2-1) looked to be travelling the stronger of the pair on the run to the second fence from home under Ruby Walsh, but Darasso responded to Barry Geraghty’s urgings to hit the front at the last.
Cadmium did not go down without a fight on the run-in. But in receipt of 5lb, the JP McManus-owned Darasso won the argument a shade cosily by two and a quarter lengths.
Geraghty said: “There’s no doubt he’s a good horse, but he was also facing horses that didn’t go (to Cheltenham) last week – not meaning to be disrespectful, but horses of a level.
“He’s a nice type, but the ground probably suited us better than the second horse. He has a bit to work on with his jumping, but it’s his first run over our (Irish) fences.
“He was at his best at the finish, and it was the same at Gowran.”