Warrior defeats returning Solwhit at Punchestown
Bog Warrior and Solwhit left their respective connections thrilled to bits after finishing first and second in the Follow Punchestown On Facebook Hurdle.
Tony Martin's Grade One-winning chaser Bog Warrior was the 11-8 favourite following a confidence-boosting win over hurdles at Fairyhouse, while six-time Grade One winner Solwhit was next in the betting as he made his eagerly-anticipated return from over 700 days on the sidelines.
Bog Warrior and Davy Russell kicked on from before the home turn, with the Charles Byrnes-trained Solwhit and Andrew Lynch the only rival able to stay with him.
The latter briefly looked a major threat, but his lack of race-fitness took its toll in the straight and Bog Warrior pulled clear for a six-and-a-half-length verdict.
Staying Article was a long way back in third and dual Royal Ascot winner Simenon was once again disappointing.
Martin said: "I'm thrilled with that. At Fairyhouse he was good, but that was him today and it's great to see.
"There was no hiding place for anything there. I'll have a chat with the boys now (owners, Gigginstown House Stud) and see what way they want to go.
"It's just great to get a couple of wins with him. I'm just happy to go for something nice after today.
"We'll see how he is in the morning and week ahead. That's the most important thing as he's had a few problems in the past."
Byrnes said of Solwhit: "I'm well pleased with that. Andrew (Lynch) said he gave a good blow after the second last and the winner is a good horse on that ground.
"I'm happy going forward now and hopefully he's OK in the morning. We could look at the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas over two miles and three furlongs (19 January), or the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran (24 January) over three miles.
"I'll probably make an entry for the Irish Champion Hurdle, but I'd doubt if he'd run in it."
Russell went on to complete a double as Noel Meade-trained Hartside ran out a fortuitous winner of the Festival Hospitality On Sale 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle.
The 5-2 shot was booked for a distant second until long odds-on favourite Fatcatinthehat came to grief at the final obstacle.
Meade said: "He's a grand little horse and won three at a moderate enough level on the Flat. It's a good way to finish the year - so well done him."
Willie Mullins is eyeing a crack at the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham for Vesper Bell (5-4) following his 15-length triumph in the Buy Your 2013 Annual Membership Beginners Chase.
Odds-on favourite You Must Know Me was found to be lame post-race.
"He looks made for the four-miler and that will be his aim," said the champion trainer.
"He loves those conditions and a test of stamina and we were pleased with him."
Brian Cawley produced 2-1 favourite Luke's Benefit with a withering late run to take the derekoneill.com Handicap Chase.
Winning trainer Denis Hogan said: "That's great. Brian is great value for his seven-pound claim and gave him a great ride. He didn't panic and arrived just in time.
"He is what he is ratings wise and we'll look for something similar. There's a race for him at Naas next week, but that might be a bit soon.
"He'll mix it in handicap hurdles and chases."
Dessie Hughes and Bryan Cooper combined to take the Buy Your Tickets Online At www.punchestown.com Handicap Hurdle with 9-1 chance Canaly, while 10-1 shot World Citizen just held on in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.
Our Pollyanna (7-1) ran away with the concluding bumper.