Queens Brook justified strong market support and lowered the colours of Brandy Love in the process when winning the Racing TV Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown.
The Willie Mullins-trained Brandy Love was the overnight favourite to return to action with a win as the only horse to beat Harry Fry’s Love Envoi to date.
However, the mare much prefers to go left-handed and she found conceding 9lb and race fitness to Gordon Elliott’s Queens Brook a step too far.
As race time approached, Queens Brook’s price contracted until eventually she was sent off the 11-8 favourite and having jumped economically throughout, when she took up the running before turning for home, Brandy Love could not bridge the gap.
Jordan Gainford did not have to get too serious and just kept his mount up to her work to win by four and a half lengths, with Anna Bunina staying on to pip Brandy Love for second.
“She’s very good, her form is rock solid. She enjoyed it around there and I thought from the bend to the last that she picked up very well. It’s nice to see her doing that,” said Gainford.
“That inside track is riding very tight today to be honest. She’s a mare that is consistent and she’s there every day.”
Brandy Love was pushed out to 10-1 from 7-2 for the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham by Betfair with the winner trimmed into 8s from 10s.
There was drama in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle which went the way of 66-1 chance Connors Cross.
Noel Meade’s 11-8 favourite Faulty still held every chance on the final bend when slipping up, causing jockey Bryan Cooper to give up his remaining mounts.
“I thought he’d run a lot better in Naas but he actually struck into himself, either going to the start or during the race,” said winning trainer James Fahey.
“I’m delighted for the boys that it worked out. I think they had a few quid on him, he was 100-1 this morning.”
The opening Racing TV Maiden Hurdle was also eventful as Elliott’s 6-4 favourite I Am Fortunata was in front at halfway before running out.
The race went the way of Pat Flynn’s Soldier Solid.
Barry Connell’s good recent run continued when Nine Graces (11-4) won the Racing TV Mares Maiden Hurdle under Michael O’Sullivan.
“We bought her out of a schooling hurdle in Tipperary about two years ago after she ran well in that,” said Connell.
“I ran her in three bumpers, she ran OK the first time, but ran worse the next time and worse the time after. She hated bumpers so we said we’d go back to square on and put her over an obstacle.
“We were getting 8lb from the second and we also had Mikey’s 5lb, so we’re not getting carried away.
“We’ll probably get a handicap mark and see where we are. If she improves a bit further, the mares’ program is there for her.
“The way she attacks the hurdles, I think she could be a graded mare over fences in time.”