Any Second Now edged out Escaria Ten in a thrilling finish to the Tote Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse.
Both are leading players for the Randox Grand National at Aintree, with Any Second Now having finished third in the race last year while Escaria Ten was a general 16-1 shot before this race for the world famous marathon.
Any Second Now was conceding 8lb to his rival and it looked as though the extra weight might take its toll as Escaria Ten set sail at the turn for home, with favourite Burrows Saint dropping away very quickly when asked to up his effort.
However, the Ted Walsh-trained Any Second Now kept finding for pressure and Mark Walsh just got his head on front at the line to win by a nose, with 42 lengths back to the disappointing Burrows Saint.
Paddy Power make both Any Second Now and the Gordon Elliott-trained Escaria Ten 12-1 chances for National glory after their photo finish.
Walsh said: “He can win at two miles, or he can win at three miles, or he can win at three and a quarter miles. That’s what you need going to the National, a bit of luck. He’s in good old nick.
“Six weeks to go and he didn’t have that hard of a race, he got a couple of smacks at the back of the last. He’s 10 years of age.
“I’d say Burrows Saint probably has a problem with his puff (wind) again, he cut out very quickly turning in when travelling really well.
“The second horse (Escaria Ten) is a good horse. There was a Thyestes winner (Coko Beach) in it, a Kim Muir winner (Any Second Now) in it and an Irish National winner (Burrows Saint) so it was a tidy race. The second horse was third in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham and stays well.
“I was happy with my fella today and I’m glad I got a race into him. I’m delighted he got a few smacks and he had to go and do it. There was no point touring around. You want to be competitive as it is six weeks to the National, he needs to be fit and well for it.
“I’m delighted, I couldn’t have asked for better. I was coming off the stand and I was delighted if he was second, and I was delighted that the verdict went our way.
“He’ll go there (Aintree) fit and well with a clear run and everything going right for him.”
Walsh and owner JP McManus were completing a big-race double after Icare Allen earlier galloped home a cosy winner of the Norman Colfer Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle.
Trained by Willie Mullins, Icare Allen was sent off the 4-9 favourite for the Grade Three affair having finished fifth behind stablemate Vauban at the top level last time.
It was a two-horse race judged on the betting with only White Pepper sent off at single figure odds and so it proved, with Icare Allen tracking his pace-setting market rival until Walsh took the brakes off with a couple to jump.
Icare Allen responded in style and cruised home seven and a half lengths clear, with Prairie Dancer collaring White Pepper for second in the shadow of the post.
Betfair chopped Icare Allen to 20-1 from 33s for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, but Mullins is unsure if he will go for the Grade One contest or take a handicap alternative.
He said: “He did it well, he jumped better. He just was a lot better than he was at Christmas.
“We’ll roll on – we haven’t decided where we are going to go. He’ll go across the water, he’s in the Boodles and he is in the Triumph but we haven’t made up our minds yet.”