Uncle Phil posted a smart performance to claim the SBK Dan & Joan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse.
Willie Mullins’ charge was having his first start in handicap company, having finished third in the Grade Two Craddockstown Novice Chase when last seen in November.
Paul Townend was positive from the off and the seven-year-old was clearly full of running coming to the last fence in the extended two-mile-one-furlong heat.
Uncle Phil (11-2) duly stretched away on the run to the line, beating Lucid Dreams by three and three-quarter lengths, with 5-4 favourite Letsbeclearaboutit a further two lengths back in third.
Townend said: “That was very nice. His run in Punchestown was decent, he probably got his own way that day.
“Today he was jumping so well that he probably puts them under pressure behind and the drying ground helped.
“You don’t know what to expect with him to be honest, but I thought his jumping and the run the last day would bring him a long way. Every dry day was helping.”
Hunters Yarn is now a 16-1 chance with Betfair for the Arkle after completing a treble for Mullins and Townend in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase.
Sent off the 8-15 favourite despite falling on his chasing bow, Hunters Yarn made a notable jumping error at the second last but his class told in the end, as he triumphed by 10 lengths.
“Not without a scare but he’s learned how to save himself and he settled it quickly again after that, which was nice,” said Townend.
“He jumped very well up to that and it was just the one mistake again, but he went down and jumped the last well after it. You have to be taken with him.
“He hit it some belt and for a second I was thinking ‘not again’. I thought the fall the last day would help him find his feet and figure it out. I’m disappointed he did it again but at least he was able to recover from it today.
“It shows that he has a big engine, to recover from it and win as impressively as he did.”
Miss Manzor (6-4 favourite) had earlier initiated the hat-trick for Mullins and Townend, as she made the most of a drop in class in the Racing TV Club Day At Fairyhouse Hurdle, seeing off stablemate Karia Des Blaises.
“She has a lovely attitude and she jumped brilliant, with the experience she had in France,” said Townend. “She stays really well and was a simple ride.
“It’s a tricky time of year with juveniles and I’m forever getting them wrong. I didn’t think there was much between these two today but I got the run of the race.
“She’ll progress away, where she ends up I don’t know. I used her experience and was able to keep it simple. She’s quick through the air and has a willing attitude.”
Betfair make her a 12-1 chance for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Festival and a 33-1 shot for the Triumph.
All eyes were on Romeo Coolio (evens favourite) in the closing SBK INH Flat Race, as the £420,000 purchase made his debut under rules for Gordon Elliott.
Ridden by Harry Swan, the point-to-point winner was made to work a bit by 22-1 shot Sporting Glory but had a length and a quarter in hand at the finish.
“He’s a good horse, it was a messy race as they went no gallop. I missed a bit of time with him a month or two ago and he’s having a proper blow, he’s going to come on a lot from it,” said Elliott.
“If I didn’t come here, I had to go to Navan, there aren’t a lot of races for him going forward and I wanted to get a run into him.
“On the day, probably 80 per cent of mine ran below par, so I was nervous going into the race but I think he’s a proper horse.
“It’s all about the future with this horse, whatever he does this year is only going to be a bonus – I think he’s a real one.
“The boys are big supporters of the yard and they flew over from England today, so I’m delighted to get them a winner.
“He’ll go straight to Cheltenham now. I’m not worried about today, the race was very messy and it didn’t work out. They went no gallop and he’s a big galloping horse. He’s a stayer.”
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