Nolan seeking winning opportunity for Latest Exhibition

Paul Nolan will do everything in his power to find an opportunity for Latest Exhibition to get back on the winning trail after again finding Monkfish too strong at Leopardstown on Sunday.

Just a neck separated the Willie Mullins-trained Monkfish and Nolan’s stable star when the pair finished first and second respectively in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last March.

However, Monkfish was an authoritative winner when they met in a Grade One novice chase at Leopardstown over the Christmas period – and was even more dominant when blowing his rivals away in last weekend’s Flogas Novice Chase.

Nolan said: “In fairness, we were well and truly beaten. I don’t think it’s my fellow regressing, I just think Monkfish is a year younger and still improving.

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“Maybe my fellow didn’t quite run up to total scratch, but I don’t have any excuses really.

“At the end of the day, my horse was a good second and had some good horses behind him.”

Nolan now faces the difficult choice of allowing Latest Exhibition to meet Monkfish again in next month’s Festival Novices’ Chase, or potentially drop back in distance to take on the similarly exciting and unbeaten Envoi Allen in the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

He does have a third Festival option in the form of the three-mile-six-furlong National Hunt Chase, while Nolan is not ruling out the possibility of his charge missing Cheltenham altogether in favour of an easier option on home soil.

“Monkfish just looks to be an exceptional animal. I didn’t think we’d seen a horse to match Envoi Allen in the last number of years, but he possibly proved that he could,” Nolan continued.

“It’s unfortunate for me that it’s difficult to avoid them. If I go back in trip in Cheltenham I take on Envoi Allen, or I stay where I am and take on Monkfish again. We’ve never met Envoi Allen, whereas we’ve met Monkfish three times and he’s beaten us three times.

“We’ll have to make decisions about Cheltenham, whether we stay at home and go for the Ryanair Gold Cup or the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse instead.

“People always say you shouldn’t be afraid of one horse, but you’re dealing with horses that don’t seem to make mistakes and there don’t seem to be any flaws in them.”

Paul Nolan (right) wants to get Latest Exhibition back on the winning trail
Paul Nolan (right) wants to get Latest Exhibition back on the winning trail (David Davies/PA)

He added: “I don’t mind listening to different opinions, but you have to be realistic and I don’t want to finish second again – I would prefer to win a winners-of-one race somewhere than be second in a Grade One.

“For the horse’s sake as well, he’s getting very hard races and finishing second. It’s always a relief to run respectably and run well, but seconds are no good to me – I want winners.

“We’re going to have a chat with the owners and weigh up our options.

“If you’d told me at the start of the season that after four races we’d have won one and finished second three times I’d have been disappointed, so I’m going to do my best to rectify that and run the horse in the race I think he has the best chance of winning.”

Monkfish bids for third-round knockout against Latest Exhibition

Monkfish and Latest Exhibition lock horns for a third time in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

The Willie Mullins-trained Monkfish defeated Paul Nolan’s stable star Latest Exhibition by a neck when the pair filled the first two places in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival.

The pair renewed rivalry in a Grade One novice chase at Leopardstown over Christmas – and on that occasion, Monkfish ran out a more authoritative three-length winner.

They do battle once more on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival, with Mullins not expecting that a drop in trip from three miles to an extended two miles and five furlongs will prove a problem for his charge.

“It was a good tussle with Latest Exhibition at Christmas. They have a little history together, and there’s never much between them,” said the champion trainer.

“The way Monkfish jumps, I don’t think coming back in trip will bother him, and the ground will be more testing as well.

“It’s a Grade One and it’s huge prize money, (so) we have to go there.”

Monkfish is one of three Mullins-trained runners in a nine-strong field on Sunday, with Asterion Forlonge and Janidil also declared.

Asterion Forlonge won a Grade One novice hurdle at this meeting last year, but returns with plenty to prove following successive falls over fences at Limerick and Punchestown, while Janidil failed to run up to expectations in the same Limerick race in late December.

Mullins added: “I’ve wondered about different ways of riding Asterion Forlonge that might negate him going right. There’s an argument to keep him to right-handed tracks – but sometimes if you don’t ask the question, you don’t get the answer either.

Asterion Forlonge has questions to answer in the jumping department
Asterion Forlonge has questions to answer in the jumping department (Niall Carson/PA)

“It is a Grade One, so if you miss it you can’t pick one up the following week. I think he was just going too slow last time at Punchestown.

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“I was disappointed with Janidil in Limerick. I’m not sure the real heavy ground suited him – he might want a nicer surface.”

Nolan is delighted with Latest Exhibition ahead of his latest big-race assignment, saying: “He had a tough race against Monkfish the last day, but we couldn’t be happier with him – he did a piece of work earlier in the week, and we were extremely happy.

“I don’t think the shorter trip will be an inconvenience to him. If he runs as well as he did at Christmas, please God he’ll put it up to everything again.”

Latest Exhibition will clash again with Monkfish
Latest Exhibition will clash again with Monkfish (PA)

Gordon Elliott fires a twin assault, with Andy Dufresne joined by his lesser-fancied stablemate Conflated.

“Andy Dufresne is taking a big step up in class here and he is going to have to be at his very best, but I could see him running a big race,” Elliott told Betfair.

“Conflated struggled behind Monkfish last time and looks to be up against it once more – but I’m not convinced he was at his best that day, and the three-mile trip might have stretched him too.”

Mullins has saddled seven of the last eight winners of the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle – and this year has strong favourite Appreciate It joined by five stable companions.

The market leader was a hugely impressive winner over the course and distance last time, and already heads ante-post lists for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Paul Townend and Appreciate It in full flight
Paul Townend and Appreciate It in full flight (PA)

Reflecting on his Christmas success, Mullins said: “I wasn’t sure whether he could be that good – but he was more than I thought he was, the performance he put in.

“I was thinking about going up in trip at the start of the season. If we’d been going for the two-mile-six race this weekend it wouldn’t have surprised me, which is why I was hugely taken with his last performance.”

Blue Lord, N’golo, Galopin Des Champs, Mr Coldstone and Hook Up complete the Mullins sextet – while Elliott is represented by Ballyadam, Wide Receiver and Magic Tricks.

Ballyadam was rated the biggest threat to Appreciate It in December, having won the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse, but was ultimately well beaten in fourth place.

“Ballyadam did not run well here at Christmas time, so he is coming here on a retrieval mission,” said Elliott.

“I’m happy enough to put a line through his run at Christmas, because he never looked happy and didn’t finish out his race at all.

“Hopefully he will do much better here, but I’m under no illusions about the task facing him because this does look like a high-quality edition of this race.”

The first of four Grade Ones on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival is the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle, in which Elliott’s Quilixios puts his unbeaten record on the line.

Quilixios is a smart prospect in the Cheveley Park Stud colours
Quilixios is a smart prospect in the Cheveley Park Stud colours (Niall Carson/PA)

“He’s a lovely horse, and I’ve been delighted with what he has shown on his two runs for us this season,” said the Cullentra handler.

“He is taking a major rise in class for this, but we are lucky enough to have some good juveniles in the yard to measure him by, and I think he is up to holding his own at this level.”

Mullins runs three against Quilixios in Ha D’or, Saint Sam and Youmdor, and appears to hold all the aces in the concluding N.H. Sires Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares I.N.H. Flat Race – with five of the 11 runners hailing from Closutton.

The trainer’s son Patrick has sided with Brandy Love over Brooklynn Glory (Barry O’Neill), Purple Mountain (Tom Hamilton), Take Tea (Derek O’Connor) and Grangee (Jody Townend).

Summing up their chances, Mullins senior said: “Brooklynn Glory has won twice and been very good both times; Purple Mountain is good, but I’m worried about the ground for her, and Take Tea was very impressive in Naas – and the second has come out and won since.

“Brandy Love was hugely impressive in Fairyhouse. Grangee probably won’t be suited by the ground, but where else do I go? She’s not the biggest mare – and 11st 7lb in this, rather than 12st 7lb in a mares’ bumper, is much better for her.

“I think Brooklynn, Take Tea and Brandy Love have been hugely impressive, but I’m as inquisitive as everyone to find out which one is best.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a group of mares this strong before.”

The big danger appears to be Hollymount – who makes her first start for Elliott, having recently been snapped up for £300,000.

Elliott said: “Hollymount came to us just last week after being bought from Stuart Crawford’s yard following an impressive bumper win at Carlisle a couple of months ago.

“She is taking a huge rise in class here and she’s a mare we are just getting to know, but I can say that she has settled in well and I could see her showing up well in what looks a top class mares’ bumper.”

Nolan weighing up Leopardstown options for Latest Exhibition

Ground conditions are likely to be key in deciding which race Latest Exhibition will contest at this weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival.

Paul Nolan’s stable star was widely expected to take on the Willie Mullins-trained Monkfish for a third time in the Flogas Novice Chase on Sunday, having filled the runner-up spot behind him in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham last March and at Leopardstown in December.

However, Nolan also left Latest Exhibition in Saturday’s Patrick Ward & Company Solicitors Irish Arkle at the confirmation stage on Tuesday – and the Enniscorthy-based trainer is in no rush to commit to either race just yet.

He said: “We’re just keeping our options open. We’re not 100 per cent sure yet and I don’t want to say any more than that.

“They’re both good races. The Flogas is a longer trip and possibly empties you out a bit more for Cheltenham.

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“We’re hoping to God they don’t get too much rain, basically. If they got a couple of days for it to dry out and the ground was on the nicer side of soft, I’d be happier.

“At this time of year, coming into the spring, you’d be hoping that if it got a few dry days Leopardstown could dry up very quickly.”

Latest Exhibition holds entries in the two-and-a-half-mile Marsh Novices’ Chase, the three-mile Festival Novices’ Chase and the National Hunt Chase over three miles and six furlongs at next month’s Cheltenham Festival – and Nolan admits there is no easy option.

He added: “The novice chasers seem to be of a very high standard this year. Even if you went for the National Hunt Chase, you might meet Venetia Williams’ horse (Royal Pagaille), who looks a potential Gold Cup horse.

“You’d imagine no matter what race Envoi Allen goes for he’ll win it. Even if he was in the Gold Cup, he might win it – to me he looks a step above everything and the real ‘Mr Unbeatable’ in my book.

“They seem to be an exceptional bunch of novices. You look at the Irish Gold Cup this weekend, there’s only five horses left in it – and if a top novice like Monkfish ran in it, they wouldn’t look out of place.”

Latest Exhibition will lead a four-strong Nolan team at Leopardstown.

The trainer said: “We have Mrs Milner and Tucanae in the mares’ handicap hurdle on Sunday.

“I thought Mrs Milner ran a nice race in the Pertemps qualifier in Leopardstown the last day, when we probably made too much use of her.

“She’s in the three-mile handicap hurdle this weekend as well, but we’re thinking of dropping her back in trip to run against the mares.

“Tucanae was a bit disappointing in Clonmel last time, but hopefully she’ll run there as well, and we’ll run Fitzhenry in the two-mile-five Leopardstown Handicap Chase.”

Nolan expects further improvement from Latest Exhibition

Paul Nolan admitted to mixed emotions as Latest Exhibition chased home Monkfish at Leopardstown.

The Willie Mullins-trained Monkfish beat Nolan’s stable star by a neck when they finished first and second in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival.

Both horses then won on their respective chase debuts, but Latest Exhibition was subsequently beaten in a Grade Two at Leopardstown.

The pair renewed rivalry in Tuesday’s Grade One Neville Hotels Novice Chase on the fourth and final day of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival – and while Monkfish ultimately won decisively, Nolan believes there is more to come from his lightly-raced gelding.

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He said: “In one way you’re delighted because he ran so well, but it’s also a little bit deflating when you’ve run such a good race and you’re still beaten.

“He was obviously beaten by a very good horse. Bryan (Cooper) said he’s going to learn an awful lot from it because (unlike the winner) our guy hadn’t got the point-to-point experience and wouldn’t have been schooled in the manner of point-to-point horses as a youngster.

“He quickened the whole way up the straight and on the day he just wasn’t good enough, but Bryan wasn’t over hard on him in the last 100 metres when he accepted defeat.

“He was a late developing horse, and I think he’s starting to look a bit better in himself, so we’ll try our best to keep him in one piece and hope there’s more improvement in him.

“As I say, he was beaten by a very good horse, but I still think we’ve got a very good horse ourselves.”

Mullins confirmed the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown in early February as the likely next target for Monkfish – and Nolan is in no rush to decide whether to let Latest Exhibition take him on once more before a return to Prestbury Park in March.

Paul Nolan (centre) still has high hopes for Latest Exhibition
Paul Nolan (centre) still has high hopes for Latest Exhibition (Niall Carson/PA)

“We’ll have a little chat with the lads (owners) and see what our options are,” the trainer added.

“It would be a fair battle to try and beat Monkfish again, with Cheltenham in mind, but we’ll certainly enter him and see what we think is the best thing to do.

“He’ll be entered in all the novice chases in Cheltenham bar the Arkle. You’ve got the RSA and the Marsh Novices’ Chase – and the National Hunt Chase is an option, too.

“We won’t rule out anything yet.”

Monkfish and Exhibition clash again in Leopardstown contest

Cheltenham Festival one-two Monkfish and Latest Exhibition renew rivalry in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Tuesday.

The Willie Mullins-trained Monkfish got the better of Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition by a neck in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the showpiece meeting in March, with the high-class pair of Fury Road and Thyme Hill close-up in third and fourth.

Monkfish made an impressive start to his career over regulation fences at Fairyhouse last month and he will be a hot favourite to follow up at Grade One level on the fourth and final day of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “He was the leading staying novice hurdler last year and we think fences have improved him.

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“Latest Exhibition is a very good horse, but we’ll probably be disappointed if Monkfish can’t continue his upward trajectory.”

Latest Exhibition made a successful chasing debut at Punchestown in October, but proved no match for Pencilfulloflead when odds on for a Grade Two contest at the same venue on his latest outing.

The winner did the form no harm when narrowly beaten in a Grade One at Limerick on Saturday, however, and Nolan hopes his stable star will be seen in a better light on the forecast better ground at Leopardstown.

“Hopefully he’ll run well – we couldn’t be happier with him,” said the Enniscorthy-based trainer.

“It will be very hard to beat Willie’s horse. He looks like he’s better over fences than he was over hurdles and he’s already beaten us over hurdles in Cheltenham.

“I don’t want to see a lot more rain, but the ground is not going to be as heavy as it was in Punchestown anyway, so he should be fine.

“The favourite will be hard to beat, but we’re there with a fighting chance. I just hope he jumps well and runs a nice race.”

Gordon Elliott is hopeful Conflated can make his presence felt
Gordon Elliott is hopeful Conflated can make his presence felt (PA)

Gordon Elliott has landed this prize in each of the past three seasons and is this year represented by Conflated.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding was placed behind Darver Star and Asterion Forlonge on his first two chase starts before making it third time lucky with a 17-length verdict at Navan.

Elliott told Betfair: “It’s going to be interesting to see how Conflated gets on over three miles as he has never gone beyond two and a half. To me he shapes like a horse that could improve over further and I’m really looking forward to running him.

“I thought he was very good at Navan last time, when he seemed to enjoy the switch back to a left-handed track. If he turns up here in the same sort of form, I could see him running a big race, although Monkfish is going to be hard to beat.”

Eurobot (Noel Meade), Foxy Jacks (Mouse Morris) and Heaven Help Us (Paul Hennessy) complete the line-up.

Nolan banks on good ground for Latest Exhibition

Paul Nolan hopes quicker ground can help Latest Exhibition in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

In recent seasons the ground at the Foxrock venue has been generally good, and Nolan believes similar conditions will bring out the best in his Grade One-winning novice hurdler – who was agonisingly denied in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham by Monkfish.

A winner on his chasing debut, Latest Exhibition was then beaten on heavy ground by Pencilfulloflead in the Florida Pearl Novice Chase at Punchestown.

“Latest Exhibition will run in the three-mile Grade One at Leopardstown, and hopefully nicer ground will bring out a better horse,” said Wexford trainer Nolan.

“Of course we were disappointed the last day, but we are blaming the ground. I couldn’t be happier with him since.

“We probably ran him a bit too quick the last day after his beginners chase, so maybe that was a factor as well.

“He’s a horse that only does what he has to do. He’s not flashy – but having said that, we are hoping to see a different horse on not as extreme a ground at Christmas.”

Latest Exhibition will avoid heavy ground after Punchestown defeat

Paul Nolan will hunt for better ground as he plans the next steps in his Cheltenham Festival runner-up Latest Exhibition’s novice chase campaign.

The seven-year-old, second in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in March, was sent off the odds-on favourite for the Grade Two Florida Pearl Novice Chase at Punchestown on Sunday but had to settle for minor honours again, seven lengths behind Pencilfulloflead.

That was his second start over fences after an initial course-and-distance success in a beginners’ chase last month.

Nolan put the defeat down to the heavy going, and hopes there will be better ground to be found at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting.

“Of course we were disappointed – but I just think with the extreme heavy ground, possibly he didn’t just act as well on it,” said the Wexford trainer.

“On the day he was definitely beaten by a better horse – and hopefully there’ll be a little bit of not-so-heavy ground on another day, and we can head for Leopardstown at Christmas.

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“Hopefully he’ll handle the ground that bit better, but certainly that’s what we blame anyway. He just didn’t act the same or pick up the same in the really heavy conditions.”

Mrs Milner also collected a runner-up spot for Nolan over the weekend when beaten a neck by On The Blind Side in the Listed Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The five-year-old’s British rating is 7lb higher than her Irish mark, an increase Nolan felt could have cost her the race because margin of defeat was so narrow.

“Mrs Milner was good – she was just unfortunate,” he said.

“Looking at it now, she was rated 123 in Ireland, and I suppose the 7lb that she got in England unfortunately just got her beaten by that bit of a distance. If it had have been a four or five-pound hike she might have won.

“Then again, she had plenty of time to get past him (On The Blind Side) – and she didn’t. It was just unfortunate to get so near to large black type at Cheltenham, and get beaten by so little on the day.

“She’s a very consistent filly and hopefully she’ll remain consistent for the rest of the season. We were delighted with the run – it was just unfortunate to get so close.”

Nolan also sent Discorama over to Cheltenham for the Planteur At Chapel Stud Handicap Chase, in which he finished a distant fifth of six runners.

“We were disappointed with how he ran – we thought he was in great shape,” he said.

“Maybe he was just that bit too fresh, just too keen early on – and in that sort of ground if you won’t settle you’ve no chance. He just pulled too hard early on in the race, pulled his way to the front – and when that happens it’s very, very seldom over that sort of trip that you’ll finish out your race.

“He’s never been that way before, never acted that way before, and that’s why we’re just going to draw a line through it. He was just too keen – the race was basically over (for him) after four or five fences.”

Having been placed at three consecutive Cheltenham Festivals, including when third in the Grade Three Ultima Handicap Chase this year, Discorama finds himself running off a mark of 150 – which makes him tough to place.

“We’ll wait and see now – unfortunately with the programme, there’s not much for him,” added Nolan.

“He’s in no man’s land really, with regards to his mark. Do you run him in Grade Twos and Grade Ones against the top horses, where he’s more than a stone wrong on his rating? But there are times when you get a bit of luck on the day, and you never know what will happen.

“That was a bit of a plan to go to Cheltenham, that backfired on us.

“It didn’t work out, so we’ll just assess it now over the next few days. We’ll make a bit of plan from there and see how we go.”

Nolan scans calendar for Discorama

Paul Nolan is struggling to find a suitable opportunity for his stable stalwart Discorama.

The seven-year-old has been placed at the Cheltenham Festival in each of the past three seasons, most recently finishing third behind The Conditional in the Ultima Handicap Chase in March.

Discorama made a promising start to the new campaign when beaten a short head by Gordon Elliott’s Milan Native in a conditions chase at Galway this month.

However, he has not managed to get his head in front in almost two years, and Nolan feels his charge is a victim of his own consistency.

“He’s in good form, (but) it’s just unfortunate you’re in no man’s land with a horse rated 150 like he is,” said the Enniscorthy-based trainer.

“He’s rated too high for handicaps in Ireland really. You’ve got the Troytown in Navan, but that’s a 0-150 race, so he’d carry top-weight in that – and we didn’t even enter him.

“You’d nearly need to be a Gold Cup horse to be winning a handicap chase in Ireland off top weight.

“Do you run him 10lb or 20lb wrong in the Grade Ones and Grade Twos, when he doesn’t seem to be up to that level, or do you carry top-weight in a handicap? You might have wait for some of the bigger handicaps and basically plan your season around those.”

Discorama’s admirable exploits have brought him just two victories in 17 career attempts.

Nolan added: “It’s awfully frustrating, because he only has two wins under his belt.

“He won a maiden hurdle and got a high rating; he won a beginners chase and got a high rating – and so far he can’t win a handicap.

“When you’re 10lb or a stone short of the top level – I’m not saying it’s a struggle, because he never runs a bad race, but it’s frustrating with a horse like him that you’ve only won two races.

“He definitely needs a trip, but I don’t think he needs the ground as heavy as we once thought – I think that’s why he runs so well in Cheltenham, because the ground is never as bottomless as it is here in Ireland.

“Please God there’ll be something for him. We’ll keep trying and see if we can improve him a length or two.”

Exhibition puts on winning show at Punchestown

Latest Exhibition looked an exciting staying prospect when making a successful debut over fences in the Bet 10 Get 10 Betdaq Virtuals Beginners Chase at Punchestown.

A Grade One-winning novice hurdler and runner-up in the Albert Bartlett on his final start last term, Paul Nolan’s seven-year-old promises to go a long way over the bigger obstacles.

His jumping may have been sketchy in the early stages, but Latest Exhibition warmed to the task as the race developed.

Taking closer order after four out under Bryan Cooper, the 6-5 favourite led approaching the final fence and went on to beat School Boy Hours by two lengths.

The winner appeared to interfere with the second on the run-in, but the places were allowed to stand following a stewards’ inquiry.

“I’m relieved. It’s our best horse and I wasn’t nervous about winning, I was nervous about a clean, safe round of jumping,” said James Nolan, assistant to his brother.

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“Bryan had been thrilled with his schooling at home and said he jumps like a two-miler and is very fast through the air. It didn’t suit early in the race that it was a bit like a handicap and Bryan just started schooling him then. 

“He was delighted with him thereafter and to be honest, if he went around with an ass he’d only just do that and only does what he has to.”

The Grade Two Florida Pearl Chase back at Punchestown next month could be Latest Exhibition’s next port of call.

“We’ll be trying to avoid Envoi Allen and he might come back here in 18 days’ time for the Florida Pearl Chase,” said Nolan.

Latest Exhibition was cut to 10-1 from 14s for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Cheltenham is the “dream” for connections of Dreal Deal after Ronan McNally’s five-year-old completed a four-timer in the Download The Betdaq App Ladies Handicap Hurdle.

After two wins on the Flat and one over jumps, the 4-6 favourite still looks ahead of the handicapper. He was given a confident ride by Maxine O’Sullivan and was not hard pressed to cross the line two lengths ahead of Halsafari.

“It was a nice performance and I didn’t really know what to expect today going up 22lb, the ground was changed and he was up in grade. The handicapper was right to be fair, he told me he thought he was right and we are happy,” said McNally.

“To win four-in-a-row with any horse is amazing, but I paid a lot of money for him and I’m delighted it has worked out.

“He is in at Cork on Sunday, but I’ll ask the handicapper as it depends on what he is going to do. Ideally I don’t want to go to Cork, but if the handicapper is going to be hard, I’ll have to run and then give him a break until the spring as he is more a good ground horse.

“We all want to go to Cheltenham in the spring, but he is not as good as that yet. He needs to go up to 130-135 to go to Cheltenham and is a long way off that yet, but you can dream.”

Cask Mate (9-2) continued to make up for lost time when winning for the second time over jumps in the Bet 10 Get 10 On Betdaq Virtuals Rated Novice Hurdle.

The Noel Meade-trained seven-year-old had been off for 1,020 days before scoring at Limerick earlier in the month and stepped up by producing another pleasing display to win by 10 lengths from Dewcup under Sean Flanagan.

“I wasn’t sure if he’d get two and a half, but he (Flanagan) said he’d get another half (mile). I told him to wait, but he said he just took him there easily,” said Meade.

“He was a good horse before he got a touch of a leg and we tried a treatment on him which didn’t work and then we fired him. That is why he was off for two seasons.”

Funky Dady (33-1) scooped the 38,000 euro first prize in the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series Final for trainer Denis Hogan and 7lb claimer Shane Mulcahy while the Jessica Harrington-trained Crosshill (4-1) bounded to an 11-length success in the Betdaq 2% Commission Exchange Maiden Hurdle under Paddy Kennedy.

Exhibition ready to display chasing prowess

Star novice hurdler Latest Exhibition makes his eagerly anticipated debut over fences at Punchestown on Wednesday.

Paul Nolan’s stable star enjoyed a fine campaign over the smaller obstacles last season, claiming the notable scalp of Gordon Elliott’s Andy Dufresne in the Grade Two Navan Novice Hurdle before striking Grade One gold at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

He was narrowly denied by the Willie Mullins-trained Monkfish in a thrilling climax to the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival in March, and makes his first competitive appearance since in the Bet 10 Get 10 BETDAQ Virtuals Beginners Chase under Bryan Cooper.

Nolan said: “We’ve had some placed horses recently, and you wouldn’t mind getting a winner, but at the same time he seems very well and he’s as fit as we can have him at home.

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“He’s going to improve, obviously, which is the same for everyone first time out. We’ve had no interruptions and we need to get started somewhere – Punchestown is a nice, galloping track with nice fences, and we just hope to God he jumps well.

“He seems well, and it’s all about jumping – we’ll find out tomorrow if he’s a chaser or not.”

Latest Exhibition is set to face nine rivals over two and three-quarter miles – including Martin Brassil’s Longhouse Poet, Elliott’s Run Wild Fred and School Boy Hours from Noel Meade’s yard.

The most valuable event on a seven-race card is the 65,000 euro Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series Final, which was saved and re-scheduled following the abandonment of the Punchestown Festival in the spring due because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Likely contenders include John Queally’s Arcadian Sunrise, Adrian Murray’s course-and-distance winner Gold Speed and the Tom Mullins-trained pair of Barnaviddaun and It Could Be You.

Barnaviddaun finished fourth on his seasonal reappearance at Gowran Park at the start of the month – while It Could Be You was last seen landing a Fairyhouse bumper, having previously finished down the field in two starts over hurdles.

“They’re two similar horses,” said Mullins.

“The fact that It Could Be You won a bumper shows he’s up to to the mark of winning something like this, and he ran a nice race in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown a month ago (finished fifth).

“Barnaviddaun had a lovely run in Gowran in his first handicap, and has been in good form since.

“Both horses jump well, ran well last time out and are very well at the moment, so I’m hoping for very good runs from the two of them.”

Discorama makes seasonal bow in Galway feature

Paul Nolan’s star chaser Discorama begins a new campaign at Galway on Wednesday.

The seven-year-old was last seen finishing third in the Ultima Handicap Chase in March – his third placed finish at the Cheltenham Festival, having previously filled the runner-up spot in both the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle and in the National Hunt Chase.

Nolan is looking forward to seeing Discorama make his seasonal reappearance under Bryan Cooper in the Ryans Cleaning, Disinfecting, Waste Disposal And Recycling Chase, with a tilt at Grand National glory at Aintree on the radar for next spring.

Nolan said: “He’s in good shape. We haven’t been able to give him a gallop on grass just yet as the ground has been too good, but he’s as fit as we can get him at home and we’re looking forward to getting him started.

“I always think the day you start making plans is the day it goes wrong, so we’ll just see how he performs on the track and make plans as we go along.

“He could end up in the English National and you’d be looking at races like the Welsh National, too – all those big, staying handicap chases really, but we’ll see how we go.”

Discorama heads a field of five runners declared for Wednesday’s Galway feature, with Noel Meade saddling Dream Conti in a bid to win the race for a fourth time in the last five years.

He is one of two runners for Gigginstown House Stud along with Gordon Elliott’s Milan Native, while the Tom Mullins-trained Court Maid and Forza Milan from James Nash’s yard complete the quintet.