Roque impresses in Kinloch Brae victory
Quito De La Roque (12-1) bounced right back to his best to win a competitive renewal of the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles.
Colm Murphy's charge looked a top-class prospect two seasons ago but has disappointed on a number of occasions since beating Sizing Europe over three miles at Down Royal in November 2011.
Roi Du Mee (15-8 favourite) gave him something resembling a race, but he could never get on terms along the straight as Paul Townend gave Quito De La Roque an aggressive ride, with six and a half lengths the winning distance.
Joncol stayed on for third.
Days Hotel made a mistake three out which put paid to his chance - just as he looked to have been improving.
"The Hennessy and the Gold Cup are there for him and maybe he'll be a National horse" - Trainer Colm Murphy on Quito De La Roque
Quito De La Roque's Gold Cup price has been cut in many places, but the John Smith's Grand National could be his aim.
Murphy said: "He's had his fair share of niggly problems. They were nothing major but they had us stopping and starting with him.
"He ran well up north (Down Royal) in the James Nicholson Chase but then things didn't happen for him.
"At Aintree things happened too quick for him so it's nice to be back on track.
"He's entered everywhere but he doesn't have too many options and I'll see what the lads say.
"The Hennessy and the Gold Cup are there for him and maybe he'll be a National horse.
"Time will tell and we'll dream on for a while."
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh endured something of a mixed afternoon as they had two winners, but two expensive fallers.
Mikael D'Haguenet, who himself has not enjoyed much luck over fences, enjoyed a confidence-booster in the WT OGrady Memorial EBF Novice Chase.
The Mullins-trained 1-2 favourite was not hard pressed in winning by two lengths.
His success came just half an hour after Djakadam came down at the last with the race in the bag.
Mullins said: "Phew, there was better luck there.
"We'll try and keep him to that sort of trip now (two and a half miles).
"The Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse at Easter is a likely target.
"He'll be entered for all those races at Cheltenham but whether or not he goes is another day's work.
"He is a course winner at Cheltenham so we might have a run before then to make up our minds."
Stablemate Ballycasey (4-6 favourite) later entered the picture for the Cheltenham Festival with an impressive performance in the INH Stallion Owners EBF Novice Hurdle.
"He's progressing lovely. I'm happy he handled the ground as I thought it might be too soft," said Mullins.
"I don't know if he'll run again between now and Cheltenham.
"He'll be entered in the Albert Bartlett and the Neptune and he's the type of horse that would prefer better ground."
Mullins' Tarla looked beaten when she came down in the Fame And Glory & Sans Frontieres Coolmore National Hunt Sires EBF Fund Mares Novice Chase, in which Noras Fancy was a 14-1 winner.
Successful trainer Jimmy Mangan said: "She's a course winner and that was a big help. Soft ground is the key to her.
"She'll stick to those mares' races.
"I'm delighted for Michael (Dixon, owner). Everyone knows the horse is named after his wife and she died over a month ago.
"She's looking after us from above."
Mullins made it a treble when Patrick Mullins guided Equus Maximus (9-1) home in the Arctic Tack Stud Hunters Chase, while 10-1 chance Sherika took the Leugh Handicap Hurdle for Grainne O'Connor and Mark Enright.