The Big Getaway is likely to be part of the Willie Mullins army bound for the Cheltenham Festival after providing the champion trainer with the third of his four winners at Naas.
Having already landed the Limestone Lad Hurdle with Stormy Ireland (3-10 favourite) and the Naas Racecourse Business Club Novice Chase with Carefully Selected (4-6 favourite), Mullins saddled The Big Getaway in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle.
Winner of a point-to-point and a bumper, the giant gelding blundered his chance away at the final flight when looking the likely winner on his hurdling debut at Leopardstown over Christmas – and he was a prohibitively-priced 2-5 shot to bounce back.
Sent straight to the lead by Paul Townend, The Big Getaway was assured in the jumping department and never really looked in any danger of being caught – passing the post 17 lengths clear of runner-up Foxy Jacks.
Mullins said: “A much more positive approach today paid off for us, and the horse loves jumping. I thought it was a tremendous performance, and he galloped all the way to the line.
“I’d imagine we’ll be looking at the Ballymore (Novices’ Hurdle) for him. He handled that ground well, and I’d imagine a big horse like him would always prefer it, but I’m not making him ground dependent at the moment anyway.”
Mullins later teamed up with son Patrick to land the concluding Naas Hunters Chase with 9-2 chance Billaway – another who has put himself in Cheltenham contention.
“He’s booked his ticket and is still a young horse,” said Mullins.
“He looks a Foxhunters type, and that’s what we bought him for.”
There was a sad postscript when Val De Ferbet collapsed and died after the race, while Mullins’ well-fancied Casey Jem returned in the horse ambulance after being quickly pulled up with an injury.
Billaway’s success takes Mullins’ winning total in the last fortnight to 13, and the Closutton maestro will be hoping that run continues at next weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.
Confirming some of his big-race plans, he added: “Klassical Dream, Sharjah and Aramon will run in the Irish Champion Hurdle – while Kemboy, Bellshill and Cadmium will go for the Irish Gold Cup.
“Chacun Pour Soi will run (in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase).”
Battle Of Wills made a successful jumping debut in the Naas Racecourse Membership Maiden Hurdle.
A three-time winner on the Flat in Britain for James Given, the four-year-old changed hands for 52,000 guineas in October and was a 100-30 chance on his first start for Gordon Elliott.
Ridden by Davy Russell, the Lawman gelding moved smoothly into contention and knuckled down well after the final flight to get the better of 100-1 shot Van Meegeren by half a length.
BoyleSports make Battle Of Wills 20-1 for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Elliott said: “He was about three weeks off where we normally start them, but I just wanted to get him started.
“I think he’s nice, and we’ll have a lot of fun with him. He’ll get one more run and will be entered in all the races at Cheltenham.”
Wolfofallstreets was a 12-1 winner of the Join Naas Racecourse Business Club Handicap Hurdle for trainer Philip Rothwell and conditional jockey Adam Short.
Oliver McKiernan and Barry Browne continued their recent run of good form as 4-1 shot Best Behavior lunged late to land the Naas Racecourse Of The Year Novice Handicap Chase.
McKiernan said: “He pulled out the stops there. It was a funny race, because he made a few mistakes and Barry wasn’t that hard on him until he began to realise he might have a chance in the straight.
“Hopefully there is a big handicap in him some day.”