Zoffanien sets up Cheltenham run with Naas victory

Zoffanien is bound for the Cheltenham Festival following a runaway victory at Naas on Sunday.

Having been placed on four of his previous five starts over obstacles for Denis Hogan, the French import was the 6-4 favourite to open his account as he stepped into handicap company for the first time.

A week on from stealing the headlines with a remarkable riding performance aboard the Hogan-trained Young Dev at Navan, conditional jockey Hugh Morgan enjoyed a far more straightforward time in the Paddy Power Road To Cheltenham Handicap Hurdle.

Always travelling strongly, Zoffanien moved to the front between the final two flights before pulling nine lengths clear on the run-in – a performance which prompted Paddy Power to slash his odds for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham to 12-1 from 20-1.

Hogan said: “He did it nicely and to be fair he’s run into one or two (good horses). He got a few pounds for finishing second the last day, so we said that we’d claim the 5lb and Hugh did us no wrong last weekend in the same colours. We gave him irons today!

“He’ll probably go for the Fred Winter (Boodles) now, and he’d no business going for it if he didn’t win today. Hopefully he comes out of that OK and gets there in one piece. He handles soft ground and he stays well.”

Joseph O’Brien and JJ Slevin combined to land the most valuable race of the afternoon – the 40,000 euros Paddy Power ‘From The Horse’s Mouth’ Podcast Novice Handicap Chase.

Despite the burden of top-weight, 5-1 shot Home By The Lee proved 10 lengths too strong for 11-4 favourite Enjoy D’allen.

Home By The Lee was a wide-margin winner
Home By The Lee was a wide-margin winner (Brian Lawless/PA)

“He’s a very excitable horse at home and got very wound up at Leopardstown last time. He was very relaxed in the paddock today and went down last lovely and relaxed,” said O’Brien’s assistant Brendan Powell.

“He jumps and he stays. You think he’s beat a long way out, but he comes there and he tries. He’s an honest horse.

“It’s nice to get his head in front again. I’m sure there is plenty for him at Fairyhouse and Punchestown.”

Egality Mans was one of three winners on the card for Willie Mullins
Egality Mans was one of three winners on the card for Willie Mullins (Brian Lawless/PA)

Egality Mans (8-11 favourite) completed a treble on the card for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend with victory in division one of the Paddy Power Livestream UK & Irish Racing On The App Maiden Hurdle.

The champion trainer and jockey had earlier successfully combined with Cilaos Emery and Echoes In Rain for graded race success.

Mullins said of Egality Mans: “As you can see, he looks like a horse that wants to go chasing sooner rather than later, but we’ll let him finish out the season novice hurdling.

“He definitely needs a fence. He’s the build of a chaser and jumps like one. We’ll probably head to Fairyhouse.”

Mullins and Townend were widely expected to make it four from four on the day in division two, but 4-5 favourite Micro Manage was too keen for his own good in front and was mowed down on the run-in by Enda Bolger’s Genois (100-30), with Mark Walsh the winning rider.

“He’s a nice horse and the nicer ground today was a help,” said Bolger.

“He’ll get further as well, so hopefully we’ll find something for him in the next month or so and end up going to Punchestown for a race.

“He’s a chaser down the line and I’m chuffed with that.”

Light Brigade (4-1) won the Paddy’s Rewards Club Handicap Hurdle for trainer Charles Byrnes and jockey Kevin Brouder, while Gerri Colombe (1-2 favourite) won the closing Paddy Power (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.