Captain Guinness notched his second Grade Three success of the season at Naas with a decisive victory in the BetVictor Chase.
Winner of the Poplar Square Chase over the course and distance in early November, Henry de Bromhead’s charge had since finished third in both the Tingle Creek at Sandown and the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown.
Dropping back down in class, Captain Guinness was the 5-4 favourite in the hands of Rachael Blackmore, who settled her mount behind the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Cash Back and Blackbow for much of the two-mile journey.
There was little to choose between the trio approaching the second fence from home, where a mistake from the error-prone Cash Back put paid to his chance.
It was a straight shootout from that point – and with the rail to help, Captain Guinness always appeared to be getting the better of the argument and had almost three lengths in hand at the line.
De Bromhead said: “I was worried about the ground, but it looked like a good opportunity and he stayed at it well. Rachael walked the track, was where she wanted to be and she was spot on, fair play to her.
“We decided we’d give Cheltenham a miss this year and have a go at his and luckily it worked out. I’m delighted to see him win another one.
“Once we switched out of the Champion Chase, today was the day and I’ll speak to Declan (Landy, owner) now. We were toying with the idea of stepping him up to two and a half miles at Aintree and the Webster Cup (at Navan) is an option, but is less than two weeks away.
“Unfortunately he had been on the same course as Energumene as a novice, but he’s only a young horse and I’m sure we’ll head over to Cheltenham next year.”
De Bromhead also reported his Cheltenham Festival team in good shape.
“We galloped a good few on Friday and we were happy with them. They seem in really good form,” he said.
De Bromhead and Blackmore quickly followed up through Gabbys Cross (22-1) in the BetVictor Novice Handicap Chase.
“He was a bit disappointing the last day in Fairyhouse so we took the hood off and it might have gone the other extreme – we might have to put it back on! He really tanked with Rachael on the way to the start, but she settled him,” said the Waterford handler.
“I was complaining about his handicap mark beforehand, so it just shows why I’m not a handicapper.
“Before the race I was trying to get him back on track but since he’s won, I’m thinking about the two-mile-five novice handicap chase at the Punchestown Festival for him. Roger (Brookhouse, owner) always likes coming over there so it might be a nice race for him.”
The Gordon Elliot-trained Music Drive was the winner of the BetVictor INH Flat Race, striking at 9-2 under Jamie Codd to beat Paul Nolan’s Sandor Clegane, the 4-9 favourite, by three-quarters of a length.
The runner-up was well-fancied after finishing second to the highly-regarded Facile Vega on his previous bumper run.
Of Music Drive, who was second to Facile Vega’s stablemate Redemption Day at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting, Elliott said: “He is a grand, honest horse who put his head out and it is great for David (Barnard) who has a couple of horses with us now. He is very lucky and everything he seems to be touching is winning and he is having a bit of craic, so I’m delighted.
“He is more of a two-and-a-half-mile horse horse down the road, he wouldn’t mind a bit of nicer ground and we’ll keep him for Fairyhouse.”