Stand Up And Fight benefited from a jolting mistake at the last by Billaway to win an informative Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee Celebrating 150 Years Hunters Chase at Fairyhouse.
With the first two from the championship event at Cheltenham – It Came To Pass and Billaway – lining up, as well as Mighty Stowaway, Winged Leader and Auvergnat, it had the look of a top-class event of its kind, even at this early stage of the season.
There were still six in with a chance approaching the second last, with all the big guns along with Rocket Man and Lite Duties almost in line.
Patrick Mullins appeared to be holding all the aces on Billaway and he had just taken up the running approaching the last when he gave it an almighty nudge, losing all momentum.
Aine O’Connor kept Enda Bolger’s Stand Up And Fight up to his work and while Billaway gave chase, he went down by a length and a half to the 16-1 winner. Mighty Stowaway was third with Festival winner It Came To Pass in fourth.
“That was a pleasant surprise. Obviously Aine has found the key to him as his last couple of runs were very disappointing,” said Bolger.
“We had notions about him before and brought him to Cheltenham last year when he finished sixth, but there has been a question mark about him ever since. We did all kinds of tests but nothing showed up.
“We put blinkers on him today and they have done the trick. Obviously we were lucky with the mistake of Billaway, but they are there to be jumped.
“We were thinking of going for a cross country race at Punchestown with him, but it looks like he’ll have to stay hunter chasing now.”
Trainer Eugene O’Sullivan was more than satisfied with the effort of It Came To Pass.
He said: “I’m delighted with him as he’d have hated the ground. He badly needed the run and, to be honest, that’s as good as I expected him to finish today. You’d always be hoping you could win, but in reality that was as good as he could finish.
“Maxine (O’Sullivan) said that everything went according to plan, but that he hated the ground.
“We might give him a run in a point-to-point, just to be easy on him, somewhere along the line on a nice track with decent ground. If I don’t have to go I’m not worried, but if he does run it will be on nice ground.
“Cheltenham, Fairyhouse and Punchestown is the plan and maybe finish out in Killarney.”