Death Duty: set to be targeted at the Albert Bartlett Novices' HurdlePICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Death Duty grinds out Grade 1 after Augusta fall
Report: Naas, Sunday
Naas: Lawlor's Hotel Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m4f, 5yo+
DEATH DUTY galloped his way to a wide-margin win as the 5-6 favourite but the battle he looked set to have with second favourite Augusta Kate evaporated when the mare took a crashing fall at the final hurdle.
Augusta Kate had looked green and slightly awkward once removed from the pack by Ruby Walsh, the rider having to slap her down the neck continuously to keep her concentrating, and the pair got low at the final obstacle and came down.
It completed a miserable afternoon for trainer Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, who had enjoyed such a successful Christmas period, as the well-fancied American Tom also fell in the race before.
Walsh had little Augusta Kate hidden for much of the race as she was surrounded by a group of towering geldings.
Blood Crazed Tiger made the early running before Turcagua took up the lead. He was tracked through by Death Duty with his honest low head carriage and powerful galloping action.
Turning for home the Gordon Elliott-trained Death Duty forced his way to the front under jockey Jack Kennedy and approaching the second last Walsh decided it was time to see what Augusta Kate could do.
Showing a smart change of pace, Augusta Kate quickly closed on Death Duty but looked uncertain as she ran around between the final two hurdles.
Nevertheless, it seemed Death Duty and Augusta Kate would be battling it out all the way home once they crossed the final flight, but the mare was low and clipped the top. Both horse and jockey were soon up after the fall.
It was left for Death Duty to gallop out to the line, his head stretched determinedly towards the winning post. Turcagua was nine lengths back in second.
Albert Bartlett aim
Elliott said: "I would say he is an out-and-out stayer and they did not go fast enough for him. Augusta Kate was upsides when she fell so it is hard to know what would have happened.
"Jack [Kennedy] thought he had her covered and the one thing I do know is that he would have galloped all the way to the line. Our lad is a very good horse."
Paddy Power shortened Death Duty to 9-4 favourite (from 5-2f) for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, and Elliott added: "If Cheltenham was tomorrow, I would say he would run in the Albert Bartlett. He will have a couple of easy weeks now and head straight to Cheltenham."
"He's a proper three-mile chaser. At this stage, of all the good horses I have had, none of them were as good as this fella over hurdles. That does not mean he will go on to do it as a chaser. I would say he is a fair one, though. "