Carefully Selected survived a scare to book his Cheltenham Festival ticket in the Naas Racecourse Business Club Novice Chase.
The Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old was already the ante-post favourite for the National Hunt Chase after impressing on his first two starts over fences this season, most recently dominating his rivals in a Grade Three contest over two and a half miles at Punchestown.
However, updated race conditions announced last summer stated that to qualify for the National Hunt Chase, a horse must have finished in the first four in a chase staged over an extended two miles and seven and a half furlongs or further – which Carefully Selected previously had not.
With the clock ticking, Mullins was left with little option but to turn his charge out a fortnight after his Punchestown triumph in this Grade Three contest – and the champion trainer will have breathed a sigh of relief after what was a far from straightforward victory.
The 4-6 favourite set out to make all the running under Paul Townend, but his jumping was not always convincing. After being passed by Spyglass Hill, Carefully Selected regained the lead before a shuddering error three fences from home shuffled him back again.
The market leader rallied, though, and looked to be getting the better of Spyglass Hill when the latter crashed out at the next obstacle.
Carefully Selected then still had to be kept up to his work on the run-in to score by four lengths from Forza Milan.
Mullins said: “He makes hard work of it. That’s twice he’s been taken out of a race with what appeared race-ending mistakes, but has come back.
“He stays all day, and his jumping is generally safe. That will be good experience for him.
“He doesn’t look the fastest, but I think he has more speed than he looks – at least over that sort of trip.
“He’s qualified now for the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, and it looks like that’s where he’ll go.
“I think better ground won’t inconvenience him over a trip.”
Carefully Selected is 7-2 with BoyleSports for the National Hunt Chase, and 4-1 with Paddy Power, after his latest win.