Shantreusse earned himself a place on Henry de Bromhead’s Cheltenham Festival team with victory in the Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle at Clonmel.
The Grade Three contest has thrown up several top-class performers in recent years, including De Bromhead’s 2017 winner Monalee and his Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning stablemate Minella Indo, who found only Allaho too strong three years ago.
Monalee went on to finish second in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, while Minella Indo Indo reversed form with Allaho to win the same Grade One contest, which now looms large for Shantreusse.
An impressive 17-length winner on his first start over three miles at Cork last month, the six-year-old was the 7-5 favourite to follow up at Grade Three level.
Eye Van did not go down without a fight, but Shantreusse kicked five lengths clear on the run-in under Rachael Blackmore, seeing his Albert Bartlett odds trimmed to 14-1 from 16-1 by Paddy Power.
De Bromhead said: “He is obviously a real stayer, loved that ground and jumps great. Rachael was brilliant on him and he is a real chaser in the making.
“It turned into a sprint and I thought we were going to struggle, but suddenly he had loads left jumping the last.
“I’m delighted for his owner Tony (Head) and his supporters and while I haven’t spoken to Tony yet, if the boys have anything to do with it he’ll run at Cheltenham!”
He added: “We have a good record in this and it is a good prep for the Albert Bartlett. He is really exciting and as long as it’s good Festival ground, I think we’ll be OK.”
Another Clonmel winner who could have Cheltenham aspirations is Hors Piste, who justified 8-13 favouritism in the Surehaul Race Day Mares Maiden Hurdle for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.
A narrowly-beaten second on her Irish debut at Tramore on New Year’s Day, the French recruit went one better with a 16-length verdict – setting up a possible appearance in the mares’ novices’ hurdle in the Cotswolds next month.
“She raced more efficiently today as she was a shade keen in Tramore. The stronger gallop today suited her and I think she improved for her Tramore run as well,” said Townend.
“She jumps really well and she is smart. If she was to run in the mares’ novice hurdle at Cheltenham, you’d imagine she would have to go straight there at this stage.
“It is heavy out there today so we’ll see what it takes out of her, but she did it nicely.”