Willie Mullins and Paul Townend secured a Grade Two double at Thurles with victories for Allaho and Colreevy.
Third in the RSA at Cheltenham in March, Allaho had reappeared in the John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown before finishing fourth to A Plus Tard in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Sent off the 10-11 favourite for the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned seven-year-old took the field along under Townend before being pressed by Mark Walsh-ridden stablemate Elimay.
The latter briefly looked like being a major threat, but the market leader was quick to assert on jumping the last and came home three lengths to the good.
A crack at the Ryanair Chase looks like being on the agenda for Allaho at this year’s Festival, a race for which he was cut to 5-1 from 6-1 by Betfair.
Winning trainer Mullins said: “I think he was idling in front all the time, and that (two and a half miles) might be more his trip. I was a little worried when Elimay got to him, but when he saw her he picked up and went away again like a decent horse.
“Elimay ran a fantastic race as well, and she will go for the Opera Hat Chase in Naas next and maybe on to the mares’ chase in Cheltenham after that.
“Allaho is a huge horse, and I thought he was a three-miler, but maybe he is better off coming back to two-four or two-five – I am thinking about the Ryanair for him.
“He is making progress, and I think he will improve into the spring – which is the time of year you want to improve in. I’m looking forward to his next run, and he’ll probably go straight to Cheltenham.”
Colreevy (4-5 favourite) took her record over fences to three from three in the Coolmore N.H. Sires Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase.
Like Allaho she was in front from the outset, although Scarlet And Dove was giving her a race before crashing out at the second-last.
Mullins said: “She jumps very well and takes it all in her stride. Paul was very happy with her, and how she did everything for him with no fuss about her.
“There’s a Grade Two chase at Limerick in March that we’re looking at next – but whether or not she has higher expectations, I don’t know. I’ll chat with the owners – but they were hoping, coming here today, to hopefully win and then go on to Limerick.
Mullins added: “We might revise plans, but we’ll see – whether or not she has enough experience over fences to go to Cheltenham is another day’s work. Certainly what she has done at Limerick over Christmas and today would lead you to think she might have as good a chance as anything over there.”
Mullins completed a treble when Eurotiep gave Aubrey McMahon his first win over the smaller obstacles in the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle.
The 15-8 shot, owned by the Down The Hatch Syndicate that includes McMahon’s father, Luke, romped home by 19 lengths.
“That was a good performance from the horse having run a cracker in a bumper at Christmas,” said Mullins.
“We’ll stay novice hurdling now and I wouldn’t be afraid to go out in trip with him either as he is well able to gallop. He is a horse to look forward to for his syndicate.”
Mullins’ son Patrick steered Noble Yeats (5-4) to victory for his cousin Emmet in division one of the Thurles (Pro-Am) Flat Race.
Division two went to the Jonathan Sweeney-trained evens favourite Churchstonewarrior.
Torygraph put up a good staying performance to win the W. T. O’Grady Memorial Irish EBF Novice Hurdle.
The well-backed 11-8 favourite, trained by Gordon Elliott, followed up his Fairyhouse maiden hurdle success with a three-and-three-quarter-length verdict over over Angels Dawn in the hands of Jack Kennedy.
The winning rider said: “He is a lovely horse and has improved from Fairyhouse. He is a lazy old horse and you have to keep him up to his work, but he does his best work at the business end of things.
“To look at, he is not your typical big, massive staying horse, but he is definitely more effective over a longer trip.”
The Dublin Racing Festival beckons for Blanketontheground (11-2) after her four-length success in the Lough Handicap Hurdle under 5lb claimer Gearoid Brouder.
Trainer Eoin McCarthy was delighted to see the eight-year-old mare regain winning ways after she was beaten at Limerick last time.
“She is a lovely filly and I suppose we got the tactics wrong at Limerick, but that is behind us,” he said.
“She is entered in the big mares’ handicap at Leopardstown and we need a couple to come out but that is the plan.”