Gordon Elliott strengthened his hand in the four-year-old division when Teahupoo stretched his unbeaten record to three in the Norman Colfer Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
Elliott already houses JCB Triumph Hurdle favourite Zanahiyr and the next in the betting Quilixios, and following this performance Betfair cut Teahupoo to 10-1 from 14-1 for Cheltenham.
Always handy under Robbie Power, riding in his role as retained jockey for owners Robcour, the 4-9 favourite never looked in any real danger in the Grade Three affair.
Willie Mullins’ newcomer Tax For Max gave him most to think about, running a very promising race considering how keen he was in the early stages but still seven lengths behind at the line.
“I thought it was a good performance again,” said Elliott.
“I liked the way when he jumped the second-last, he kind of idled a bit and pricked his ears. Robert said when he gave him a squeeze at the back of it he was gone again.
“He’s improving the whole time. Obviously he’s in everything at Cheltenham, the Fred Winter, the Supreme and the Triumph.
“I’ll have a chat with Brian (Acheson, of Robcour). We have Cheltenham or we could come back here for the Grade Two at Easter which is only two weeks later.
“It wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world if he stayed at home and came back here. There is a lot of water to go under the bridge over the next couple of weeks.”
He added: “I’d say he’ll stay three miles, he’s a real stayer and he’s probably the type of horse you need for a Triumph Hurdle because he stays. He’s a nice horse.”
Jason The Militant struck for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle.
The 7-4 favourite made all and while Petit Mouchoir closed up two out, Blackmore’s mount went again, eventually scoring by seven and a half lengths.
De Bromhead said: “That was brilliant and I’m delighted for Peter Michael (owner). It was great to get it.
“He’s having a really good season, but it’s nice to win one as well, and he won it well. He’s a horse we’ve always thought a lot of. That’s his second graded win and he was just chinned in a Grade One.
“He’s in the Champion Hurdle and we’ll see. I think ground is important to him, he wants a good ease.
“He’s a horse that is improving all the time. He won over a mile and a quarter here on the Flat, so he’s got gears.
“The Aintree Hurdle is another interesting option. We’ll see what Peter would like to do, it’s not every day you have a contender for the Champion Hurdle.
“I just have a feeling that he might be better on a flatter track, but that’s just a theory.
“We’re delighted to win today, we targeted this race.”
Acapella Bourgeois had his Randox Grand National odds halved after winning the Bobbyjo Chase for the second time.
He had been available at 50-1 for Aintree prior to seeing off stablemate Burrows Saint in the Grade Three by four and three-quarter lengths.
Ridden by Danny Mullins, he was steadied into the last fence and kept on resolutely. The two had it between them from a long way out.
Burrows Saint, who was in receipt of 6lb, remains unchanged at 14-1 for Aintree with Betfair.
“I was telling the owner before the race that he wasn’t improving as an 11-year-old, but maybe I’m wrong!” said Mullins.
“I thought the younger horse might prove the one today so I’m surprised that he was able to do that, and do it so well. I’m delighted with him.
“Both of them love Fairyhouse. Burrows Saint will go for the National now and Acapella is in it too. I’d say they’ll both be Aintree bound.
“Burrows Saint needs to improve, but I still think he has that improvement in him and the winner is holding his form, which I’m very happy to see.
“Acapella Bourgeois looked like he was really enjoying it compared to Gowran. I didn’t think he’d be going for another handicap at 11 years of age, but that’s what it looks like at the moment.
“I’m not sure Burrows Saint was really in love with that ground, it was very testing, dead ground. I think once he gets livelier spring ground we’ll see a different horse, hopefully we do anyway.”